Saratoga Springs, NY – January 19, 2016 – Sustainable Saratoga has long advocated for a mixed-use development plan for the High Rock parking lot. Optimally, the city would pursue a managed parking plan in conjunction with the creation of any additional parking projects. A comprehensive approach to better parking management is needed in order to accurately assess the true parking need and most effective parking plan within the city. We are encouraged with the creation of new Parking Task Force. It may be an indication that the City Council is considering the recommendations of the two independent consultants who spoke at our January 2015 parking forums, both of whom espoused comprehensively managed parking and transportation programs for the greater downtown area.

Given the evolution of the review process for the development of the High Rock parking lot, and the high likelihood of proceeding with development on that site, Sustainable Saratoga urges the City Council to complete the Request for Proposal (RFP) process and select a “preferred developer” for a mixed use project on that site.

Sustainable Saratoga has reviewed the three development proposals for the High Rock parking lot. These proposals include the City Center Authority’s parking structure and the responses to the City’s RFP submitted by Paramount Realty Group/Community Builders and Hyman Hemispheric/Sequence Development.

The City Center Authority proposal is essentially a single purpose use parking garage that does not meet the City’s urban design standards for mixed development and liner buildings on the street façade of parking garages. Both of the other two proposals comply with T-6 zoning and anticipate multi-year phased implementation that allow for better assimilation of the proposed commercial and residential uses. Furthermore, from a sustainable development perspective, and bearing in mind the City’s vision for the continued development of an attractive and vibrant downtown, the two mixed-use proposals are far more comprehensive and balanced and encompass more diverse options for continued enhancement of our downtown.

Both (RFP) developers have stressed their willingness to work with the community to meet the needs of a greater audience and amend their proposals with input from the City Center Authority, downtown businesses, residents, et cetera. Both proposals are complex and contain various aspects and features that will still need to be given more substance and meaningful detail as the review process unfolds. However, the current Hyman Proposal has incorporated more smart growth principles into its design and is more aligned with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and development in our urban core, particularly in these ways:

  1. It complies most closely with the City’s zoning standards regarding urban planning principles:
    • It places the parking structure closer to the center of the block and lines the structure with commercial uses on the street level ground floor. This makes the proposal most consistent with Article 3.1.2(D.1) of the Zoning Ordinance.
    • It more effectively breaks up the large urban block by creating a strong pedestrian right-of-way that comes closest to achieving the 1,200 feet block perimeter specified in Article 3.1.2A of the Zoning Ordinance.
    • It best meets the mixed use principles and objectives of the downtown Transect-6 Zoning District.
  2. It complies most closely with the City’s historic development pattern and widely accepted smart growth principles:
    • It maintains an active and vibrant street frontage around the entire development.
    • The building massing reflects distinctive and separate structures that avoid the uniformity of a monolithic structure.
    • It is more respectful of the massing and height of adjacent structures, especially to the north toward High Rock Park.
    • It provides the best street-level connections to, through and from the project site that will do the most to support vibrant street life and foster an attractive and successful mix of land uses in and around the development.

Of the three High Rock site development proposals, Sustainable Saratoga recommends that the City Council select Hyman Hemispheric/Sequence Development as the preferred developer and work with them to refine the proposal to maximize the benefits to the City Center, the city’s downtown, and the community as a whole. We are also pleased that this developer has expressed a willingness to incorporate a workforce housing component given the importance of that for the future health of this community. The City Center is an important economic engine for our City and providing adequate parking for visitors and residents alike is an important priority. This proposal gives the City the opportunity to meet those parking needs while adding to the vitality of this key downtown area.

About Sustainable Saratoga:

Sustainable Saratoga is a not-for-profit organization that promotes sustainable practices and advocates for smart growth land use principles and procedures. The organization has adopted and published smart growth positions for Saratoga Springs.

Harry Moran, Board Chair
Sustainable Saratoga