Both sides in the debate over a proposed downtown parking garage on High Rock Avenue continued to push their views Thursday, as a technical review committee presented its findings on two private proposals for the garage.
Citizens for High Rock, which supports private mixed-use development of the existing surface parking lot behind City Hall, announced it will have a public meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Saratoga Springs Public Library to push for public support of its vision.
“Without public pressure, the garage could be a done deal before the month is out,” Citizens for High Rock Chairwoman Julie Cuneo said in a statement.
City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, meanwhile, said she has negotiated a proposed lease for the land so that the Saratoga Springs City Center could build its planned garage there, and she will introduce it at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. She expects there will be two public hearings, and that the matter could be brought before the council for a vote in early April.
“This has gone on long enough,” said Madigan, who favors allowing the City Center to build a single-use parking garage with about 500 parking spaces on the 2.6-acre site.
The City Center has been pushing forward with its plans for a multi-story garage for more than three years, even though those plans have encountered stiff public opposition from people who feel a massive parking garage isn’t appropriate in the heart of downtown.
The public opposition prompted the City Council to solicit private mixed-use proposals, and last September Paramount Realty of Syracuse and Hyman Hemispheric of Voorheesville submitted proposals that included blends of parking, retail, residential and office uses on the site.
At a special City Council on Thursday, a technical review committee appointed by the council presented its findings. It found that neither proposal meets the true downtown/City Center parking need, which members estimated at 1,000 spaces or more.
Both development companies had representatives at the meeting, and said they would be willing to try to work with city officials to increase the amount of parking in their proposals. Each proposed more than 600 spaces, in keeping with the minimum the city set when it solicited development proposals.
“I don’t think we can ever get to 1,000, if that’s the need,” said Jeffrey Hyman of Hyman Hemispheric.
Rich DeVito, representing Paramount, noted that it would pay the city $100,000 annually in lease payments, and return the site to the city after 30 years. Hyman wants to buy the property from the city outright.
Both developers reported reaching out to the City Center to discuss its parking needs, but said they either received no response or were rebuffed. City Center officials continue to say their single-use garage will be the best solution to the parking needs of both downtown and the center.
Citizens for High Rock and another citizen group, Sustainable Saratoga, have come out in favor of the Hyman Hemispheric proposal.
“Both proposals are impressive, but we prefer Hyman for putting storefronts and offices on every street, and offering to involve the public in the design,” Cuneo said.
A lawsuit against the city over previous planning approvals given to the City Center garage plan, filed by the neighboring Mouzon House restaurant, remains pending in state Supreme Court.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.