SARATOGA SPRINGS – A proposal to construct a six-story, mixed-use building on three-quarters of an acre at 269 Broadway — a project that drew controversy from people who think it will overwhelm the downtown — is now under consideration by the Planning Board.
After the city Design Review Commission approved the project in a 4-3 vote last month, the applicant’s lawyer and design team gave a presentation on Thursday that drew a few favorable remarks from Planning Board members.
The project during the past year or so has gone through numerous renditions, most recently the addition of balconies to the north and south side of the building “to break up the rhythm of the facade,” project designer Michael Roman said.
The proposed brick, steel and glass building whose first two levels would be made of black granite, would have retail space facing Hamilton Street. Plans also call for rooftop solar panels and vegetation along the lot’s edge to deal with stormwater beneath a public green space area, Roman said.
Self-storage company Prime Group Holdings LLC is proposing the more than 222,000-square-foot building, which includes a two-level underground parking garage with 70 spaces.
The Design Review Commission narrowly approved the project, on the condition the proposed building’s entrance from Broadway is recessed to form a portico, and that the applicant return for approval of final details, including a revamped entrance.
In response to the commission’s concern that the design “overwhelms the street,” the applicant responded that the sixth floor had been pushed back further to give more relief to the Broadway façade.
Proposed in the city’s most densely populated and developable portion of the city, the height of the proposed building “in relation to neighboring buildings is contextually consistent,” project attorney Michael Toohey told the board.
The proposed building is in a zoning area that would allow for it to be up to 70 feet high.
Toohey said the roofline would be no higher than 70 feet, not including an elevator shaft and mechanical apparatus, which would be allowed by code.
The building would be situated between Saratoga Central Catholic School to the south and NBT Bank, and across the street from Park Place Condominiums and Congress Park.
Toohey told the board that the project team knew that its mass and scale would be a question by city boards, and so, prior to it being presented, the applicant negotiated a deal with the Archdiocese of Albany, which oversees the Catholic school, for a permanent easement on 38 feet of land to the south.
The building would only occupy 69% of the lot, while the 38 feet between the building and school would be maintained as open green space, representing what Toohey said would be the largest civic space on Broadway for any existing building between the Holiday Inn and the City Center.
Toohey said a property across the street on Broadway is virtually the same size, yet occupies 90% of its lot and presents no green space to pedestrians on Broadway.
By contrast, Toohey said the nearby Embassy Suites Hotel is 78 feet high and is next to a single-story strip mall, the clock tower for Congress Park Center is 91 feet, the steeple for St. Peters Roman Catholic Church is 73 feet, making the mass and size of the proposed 269 Broadway consistent with the neighborhood.
Also, 385 Broadway, the newest building to the north of the proposed site, is 68 feet, and its immediate neighbor to the north is the 18-foot Stadium Cafe.
A petition that opposes the project dating to 2020 was signed by approximately 800 residents, business owners and frequent visitors to Saratoga Springs, asking the Planning Board and DRC to require a significant size reduction and “more compatible design” for the proposed mixed-use building.
In recent weeks, additional opponents have submitted written comments to the board.
Milissa Rocker Klotz of Collins Terrace said the proposed building is not necessary in downtown Saratoga Springs. She called on the board to “slow the growth that is completely changing the charm and feel of the city.”
But there’s also been a smattering of support for the project.
Richard Fenton of Lefferts Street noted the neighborhood is in transition. He wrote in the comments to the board that in the late 1800s the street was occupied by buildings that were three- to five-stories tall. But as times changed, and the economy waned, the old buildings were replaced by shorter ones.
“Now Saratoga is booming again, and developers see the benefits of building in the city,” Fenton said. “Businesses want to move in. It seems strange that builders would be prevented from fulfilling our development goals because adjacent buildings don’t meet them.”
Various stakeholders see the project as an opportunity to ensure a pedestrian and bike path that would link Broadway and Hamilton Street.
The Open Space Advisory Committee took no position on whether the Planning Board should approve or deny the proposal, but it recommended that the applicant work with the board to ensure the path.
Bikeatoga and the Saratoga Springs Safe Cycling Coalition also asked that the board require a 12-foot-wide path if the project were to go forward.
The Planning Board had already reviewed the proposal and given it approval relative to the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
The applicants downplayed the project’s potential impact on downtown traffic, emphasizing that entry and egress from the underground garage would be on Hamilton Street. Motorists, Toohey said, would have to turn right coming out of the garage. There would be no left-hand turn.
Along Hamilton Street there would also be a “pull off lane” to assist with deliveries and other disruptions that might impede traffic, the lawyer said.
Planning Board member Todd Fabozzi said the proposal had evolved with input from this and other city boards, and he said the applicant had done a “bang up job” that addressed all the key points Fabozzi made from its initial plan, “where you had the open space kind of sealed off.”
The board member also said he was pleased with the revised plan having public seating and the bike path “facing out” from the building, and he noted the “porousness” of the plan and other improvements with the added balconies.
“I just think this is an excellent addition to Saratoga Springs,” Fabozzi said.
“We always hear about history in Saratoga Springs, which is, of course what we respect and understand. But we’re making our own history too, right now and in 2022, and I think this is a perfect statement of it,” he said.
Planning Board member Jason Doty gave similar feedback, praising the plan’s departure from a “sunken” entrance in favor of a one-level entry, along with the plan scaling back elevation changes inside the building.
“You guys have done a tremendous job with this project and I’m glad to be able to view it and be somewhat of a small part of it,” he said.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.