The Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to accept a $250,000 private donation from the William H. St. Thomas Family Foundation to help “establish and beautify St. Thomas Square” a proposed North Main Street and Elm Street green space area to be built adjacent to the north of the current Farmer’s Market Pavilion near Wandel Park.
Mayor Vince DeSantis told the council Nancy St. Thomas, the granddaughter of William St. Thomas, decided to donate the money after reconnecting with her 1967 Gloversville High School classmate 1st Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss in 2017 during their 50th class reunion.
“We stayed in touch the whole time after the reunion — I’ve known her since kindergarten — and then, all of a sudden she called up and said that she wanted to do something with her grandfather’s foundation,” Weiss said. “She had about $250,000, and because he was so prominent in our city, she felt that it was something that she wanted to do with his name on it.”
William St. Thomas owned a successful leather-goods manufacturing business in Gloversville for decades called St. Thomas Inc., which also owned the St. Thomas Factory Store at 35 W 8th Ave., now closed.
DeSantis read a letter from Nancy St. Thomas to the council explaining her intentions with the grant and praising the city administration under DeSantis and the council for their revitalization strategy.
“My grandfather was instrumental in employing over 300 people in the St. Thomas factory at any given time in the past, and he helped make Gloversville a destination for leather goods in New York State,” DeSantis read from Nancy St. Thomas’ letter. “To honor his efforts, and the efforts of all the leather workers in Fulton County, I would like to propose a green space to be created along Elm Street, connecting the farmer’s market and Wandel Park. The purpose of the green space would be to allow people to benefit from an open-air, tree-lined promenade, while at the same time making the city more aesthetically pleasing.”
According to the letter from Nancy St. Thomas, part of the foundation’s motivation in granting the gift is to take advantage of planned improvements at the location of the family’s former factory.
“This proposed space is very close to the St. Thomas Factory. It is my understanding that the new owners are preparing to revitalize the space in the factory for mixed use purposes,” DeSantis read from the letter.
The $250,000 gift is meant to be used as matching funds for a New York State Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) grant the city is pursuing that would help pay for the creation of the green space. The resolution passed by the council states the city can use the William H. St. Thomas Family Foundation to help create St. Thomas Square even if the state does not approve the CFA grant.
DeSantis said the officers of the William H. St. Thomas Family Foundation will need to approve of the design plan for St. Thomas Square before releasing the funds.
Tuesday night the council also voted unanimously to approve a resolution to pay $20,000 for a design plan proposal from Saratoga Springs-based company Elan Planning, Design & Landscape Architecture for St. Thomas Square.
According to the resolution, some of the design features of the park will include:
• An enhanced entrance that will honor the St. Thomas family
• A configured walkway through Castiglione Park
• An outdoor performance venue with structured seating for approximately 70
• Landscaped green space that transforms the parking lot at Elm Street into a “Village Green”
• New lighting aimed at aesthetic balancing, as well as new electrical service outlets for lighting and stage performances
• Benches, tables and new handicap accessibility features
Part of the design proposal approved by the council includes Elan providing the city assistance in the bidding process to find “qualified site contractors.”
According to Elan’s plan the construction drawing and technical specifications for the new park are due to be completed by June 24. The city will then bid out the construction phase and award contracts by July 22 and St. Thomas Square is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 3.
The plan makes no mention of the role of the potential state CFA grant, which are typically awarded in December.