Careful planning and a strong partnership with downtown businesses helped the city restore Broadway from the empty storefronts of the 1960s to the vibrant, busy main street of today.
That is the reason Broadway has been designated one of the top 10 Great Streets in the United States for 2012 by the American Planning Association.
“This award signifies we are a role model for good planning,” said Mayor Scott Johnson. “We are grateful for this prestigious award that recognizes the unparalleled success from the many years of a public-private partnership and city planning, now and in the future.”.
The mayor accepted the award on behalf of the city from Steve Iachetta, a director of the Capital District Chapter of the American Planning Association, during a ceremony in the Saratoga Springs City Center on Broadway. Iachetta is also the planning and engineering director for Albany International Airport.
The planning association selected for its award the nine-block stretch of Broadway from Van Dam Street south to Congress Street for “its 19th century architecture, building facade improvements, compatible new construction, revitalization efforts and diversity of uses.”
Broadway in Saratoga Springs joins Fifth Avenue in New York City, Duval Street in Key West, Fla., Ward Parkway in Kansas City, Mo., Broad Street in Charleston, S.C., and five other streets in major cities to be named the planning association’s Great Places in America for 2012.
“The beauty witnessed today wasn’t there during the 1960s and early 1970s when 22 of Broadway’s storefronts stood vacant,” Johnson said.
He went through the history of the city’s rebirth, starting with the 1973 Plan of Action Committee and the restoration of such landmarks as the Adelphi Hotel, Collamer Building and City Hall itself. He also noted relatively recent urban infill projects such as the City Center, Congress Park Centre and the new Market Center project on Railroad Place.
The award mentioned cultural and heritage events held on Broadway each year, including the Victorian Streetwalk sponsored by the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, First Night Saratoga, the Dance Flurry in February and the Saratoga ArtsFest in June.
Jeff Clark, president of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, said his organization is proud that some of its sponsored events were mentioned in the national award.
“It’s a very high honor,” he said about the 10 Great Streets award.
He said the cities are chosen through a very competitive process that is done with a two-step judging system. First, all suggested locations are reviewed, and from this review, a limited number of suggested locations are invited to provide additional information. After a second judging, the 10 Great Streets designees are selected.
Johnson noted this is not the first national award bestowed on some aspect of Saratoga Springs. In 1996, the city won the Great American Main Street Award, and just this year, the Saratoga Farmer’s Market, which is held in the city’s High Rock Park, won a national award and the city’s annual July 4 celebration was honored at the national level.
The mayor named a dozen organizations and institutions, from Skidmore College on North Broadway to the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, as responsible parties in the city’s restoration and success.
“The result is that we have one of the best downtowns in America,” Johnson said.
The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. The association and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning, according to its website, www.planning.org.