Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs ready to cut ribbon on City Center expansion

The $15 million expansion and renovation of the City Center took longer than expected but came in ne

The $15 million expansion and renovation of the City Center took longer than expected but came in nearly $1 million under budget, officials said Wednesday.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday by the City Center Authority and the City Council to mark the finish of the project that added 12,000 square feet of meeting space — much of it overlooking Broadway through wall-to-wall windows — to the City Center.

“We are very pleased we were able to get such good prices,” said Mark Baker, the City Center’s longtime executive director.

The project did run behind schedule, but the economic downturn in 2009 and 2010 provided lower than expected bids from area contractors eager for work, he said.

One reason the renovation and expansion took about six months longer than planned is that the City Center stayed open throughout construction, which started in September 2009.

Baker said the center held a “soft opening” of the expanded portion of the building in December for the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. This new, two-story wing in what had been the center’s atrium has been in use since then for conventions, banquets and weddings.

“Much of the interior work was done on time,” Baker said.

He said the exterior work took longer than expected. Over the past week, the raised, illuminated letters “Saratoga Springs City Center” have been installed atop the main entrance canopy.

The slope of the specially built sidewalk that runs from Broadway along Ellsworth Jones Place (formerly Grove Street) to the center’s main entrance is so gradual that people don’t realize it is fully handicapped accessible. The sidewalk also has heating coils under it to keep snow and ice off during the winter.

Michael Toohey, a local attorney who is chairman of the City Center Authority, said the authority kept its promise to keep the City Center open throughout construction. This brought steady convention and meeting business downtown over the past two years.

“It has never been closed since 1984” when it opened, Toohey said.

He said the city and community leaders decided to build the center expansion to provide Saratoga Springs with year-round convention and tourism business.

“The City Center will be a source of economic prosperity for years to come,” Toohey said about the expansion and renovation.

The center can now host multiple functions at the same time. The flexibility attracts new clients and helps to retain the groups and associations that have been booking the City Center for the past 20 years, center officials said.

Toohey said “an awful lot of people” helped make the City Center a reality more than 25 years ago, including late city Mayor Ellsworth Jones and Charles V. Wait, current president of the Adirondack Trust Co. The City Center Authority and the City Council through the years have also supported the center and endorsed the expansion.

Around $12 million of the expansion and renovation money came from state economic development grants, and about $4 million was local money.

“It serves the function for which it was constructed,” Toohey said. He added that the center has never been a financial burden to the city. In 1999, the city became the owner of a debt-free City Center and received $3.9 million in cash through an authority-driven financial arrangement involving local investors.

Toohey and Mayor Scott Johnson will be keynote speakers at Saturday’s ribbon-cutting event. The ribbon-cutting will be held prior to Saturday’s annual Flag Day parade in downtown Saratoga Springs.

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