The only remaining public parking lot on Broadway in Saratoga Springs could be up for sale if a buyer would also sell the city a piece of property on the East Side to be the site of a third fire station.
That’s the idea from Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, who is accepting proposals from interested land owners on the East Side until noon Friday. He envisions a hefty profit for the city, which would sell the Collamer parking lot, located next to the Algonquin building, for at least $775,000 and pay no more than $200,000 for a three-acre property on the East Side, according to a request for proposals sent out Aug. 30.
Any properties on the East Side that might be considered for a third fire station, according to the request, must be within a half-mile of the intersection of Route 9P and Meadowbrook and Gilbert roads.
Mathiesen views this transaction as the first step in developing a third fire station, a proposal that has not yet been approved by the City Council. Because the council hasn’t formally backed the idea of a third station, Mayor Scott Johnson said it was premature to begin looking for a piece of land.
Johnson said even if the city went ahead with construction of a new station, it didn’t make sense to only consider properties owned by people who want to buy the city’s parking lot.
“It’s a bad business decision,” he said.
Mathiesen argued at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that it would make economic sense to allow a private interest to develop the lot because it would increase in value and start paying taxes. He said the lot would likely become home to mixed-use development, which would include retail or commercial space and residential units.
If the property was sold, it would mean a loss of parking spaces that are precious commodities during the busy summer season.
Mathiesen said at Tuesday’s meeting the additional safety from a third fire station was more important than lost parking spots. He added the lost spots would eventually be replaced by a proposed parking garage behind the Saratoga Springs City Center, although there are no formal plans to start construction on that garage in the near future.
With only two more days for proposals to be considered, Mathiesen said he wasn’t aware of any interested parties, aside from one he mentioned at the council meeting. He said that party, whom he declined to identify, was found by the deputy public safety commissioner, who has been reaching out to property owners on the East Side.
Johnson said he believed the interested owner was Joel Aranson, who also owns the Algonquin building.
Once all the proposals are submitted, Mathiesen said his department will review them and bring the best one forward for the entire council to consider.
According to the request, “The successful bidder will offer the greatest value to the city for Collamer Lot and the Fire/Emergency Service facility site land transaction.”
It has been estimated the city would spend about $3 million on building a new, three-bay fire station. About $200,000 has already been bonded for a medical station on the East Side, and $192,000 will likely be bonded for the same purpose this year, although all of that money could be used for a fire station if the city went in that direction. A bond request of $3 million for an emergency medical station, which also could be used as a fire station, is proposed for the 2015 budget.