PLATTSBURGH- (Thursday. October 20th 2022)- Since the City of Plattsburgh was awarded its $10 million as part of New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) in 2016, steady progress has been made on the DRI’s constituent projects. Over the course of the past year, substantial changes to Plattsburgh’s downtown streetscape funded by the DRI have been implemented and more are on the way. Mayor Christopher Rosenquest said of the City’s ongoing efforts, “When the City received this award nearly six years ago, we certainly didn't expect it to take this long to complete. However, over the last year and half, we've been actively chipping away at completing these funded projects. We're close but there's still plenty of work to accomplish.”
Walking Press Conference on Wednesday November 9th
The Mayor will be hosting a walking press conference with any interested press on Wednesday, November 9th from 9:30AM - 10:30AM This tour will highlight the different projects completed through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and specifically showcase the Downtown Grant program. Awardees will be inviting the press into their buildings to view newly completed renovations and updates. Please meet in front of City Hall at 9:30AM to begin.
Betty Little Arts Park and Riverfront Walk
The completion of the Betty Little Arts Park, designed by Saratoga Associates and constructed by Luck Bros. Inc. at a cost of roughly $1 million, is the most visible evidence of the City’s recent DRI efforts and continues to see heavy visitation and use of its popular splash pad. The arts park and splash pad were completed and dedicated in the Summer of 2021.
Design work on the new Riverfront Walk (Riverwalk) is ongoing and the City anticipates construction to commence in the spring of 2023. The Riverwalk will run along the western bank of the Saranac River from Bridge St. to Broad St. and provide expanded views of the river and extend the Saranac River Trail from its current terminus at the south end of Durkee St. all the way to MacDonough Monument Park. Current construction costs for the Riverwalk are estimated to be $1.6 million, all of which will be funded via the DRI.
Downtown Wayfinding and Marketing
The DRI’s Marketing, Signage, and Branding project, afforded $250,000 in DRI funding, was recently completed in partnership with the talented staff of the Boire Benner Group (BBG). BBG designed and installed new wayfinding signage, themed light pole banners, street markers, interpretive panels, and dedication markers to prominent residents and public servants throughout the downtown area. They also compiled an online, interactive, and user-friendly map showing various downtown points of interest including trail locations, historic landmarks, parks, and waterfront attractions. This project was completed in the summer of 2022 and the online map can be found at https://www.discoverplattsburgh.com/.
Downtown Grant Program
Work on the DRI’s Downtown Grant Program (DGP), a $1.2 million funding pool intended to rehabilitate derelict downtown commercial and residential space, has been challenging amidst the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and more recent supply chain issues that have resulted in construction budgets far in excess of those originally proposed by the DGP’s awardees. Despite these obstacles, construction work for all eight of the awarded projects, including renovation of the Plattsburgh Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market’s (PFCM) new home on Green St., has either been completed or is currently underway. Completion of all remaining construction is anticipated in early 2023. Of the $1.2 million in DGP funding, approximately $950,000 has been spent.
Strand Center for the Arts
The Strand Center for the Arts (SCA) administered two DRI projects independently of the City and both have been completed at a cost of $750,000. They included construction of a maker space on the second floor of the SCA and final restorative touches to the Strand Theater. The Strand project was completed in early summer of 2022.
This project included $290,000 to complete a development study for a site in the City’s Harborside area. That study concluded that construction of a hotel represented the site’s highest and best use and the City is currently in talks with a regional developer interested in building such a hotel that will revitalize the City’s long neglected waterfront.
A portion of that $290,000 was also used to fund demolition of the old Plattsburgh Municipal Lighting Department headquarters on Green St. which cleared the way for the relocation of the Plattsburgh Farmers and Crafters Market and removed a deteriorating industrial eyesore from the shores of Lake Champlain. This project was completed in the Spring of 2020.
Summary of Grant Money to Date
Overall, approximately $4 million of the $10 million in total DRI funding has been put to use throughout downtown. Of the remaining $6 million, $4 million remains subject to the pending resolution of litigation related to the development of the Durkee St. parking lot and $1.6 million is expected to be spent on the Riverwalk. The final $400,000 is already under contract with various consultants, design firms, and includes the $250,000 yet to be spent by DGP awardees.
With the sole exception of the $4 million in Durkee St. development funding—which is not administered through the City—the City anticipates that all DRI funding will be expended by the fall of 2023. The $4 million DRI award to develop the Durkee St. parking lot is governed by an agreement between NYS Empire State Development and the project’s developer. The City hopes that finalizing any remaining litigation with this issue will open the doors for a development opportunity that will include adding a significant number of residents to our downtown corridor. A potential housing development and the Riverwalk both serve as the capstone to over seven years of collective effort toward a comprehensive revitalization and reimagining of what Plattsburgh’s downtown can be.
As recently as May 2022, a suit was brought against the City seeking to annul a recent subdivision approved by the City’s Common Council. This subdivision is necessary to facilitate the construction of the Riverwalk so the City could utilize the project’s associated grant funding which is set to expire at the end of 2023.
This is the fourth round of litigation brought forth by the same plaintiffs in previous suits against the City. These plaintiffs include: Plattsburgh Citizens Coalition, Inc. (PCC represented by President Scott Allen and Vice President Kevin Farrington), John Seiden, L. David Boise, North Country Cooperative Corporation (a.k.a. the North Country Food Co-Op), and City Hall Place Properties, LLC.
The Riverwalk will greatly benefit downtown residents and visitors by increasing accessibility to the Saranac River and forever keep the waterfront under the City’s control. This project is being built for the exclusive benefit of the public and at little to no cost to the City’s taxpayers. Since the most recent litigation was filed, an agreement to proceed with construction of the Riverwalk has been reached and construction bids will be sought in the fall of 2022.
The other pending litigation filed against the City by the same plaintiffs named in the Riverwalk suit was intended to prevent construction of the Durkee St. mixed use development project. That development was projected to bring over 100 new families to Downtown Plattsburgh and included roughly 13,000 square feet of new commercial space. While the initial round of this litigation resulted in the annulment of the Durkee St. project’s Planning and Zoning Board approvals, the City filed an appeal to this ruling and expects to receive a final judgment before January 2023.