The Local Planning Committee coordinating the strategy for Plattsburgh’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative Grant heard an update from the state’s consulting team earlier this week.
Plattsburgh was one of 10 communities statewide to win $10 million from the governor’s $100 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative. An 18-member local planning committee was appointed to work with a consulting firm hired by the NYS Department of State to help the city draft and implement a plan.
At the second public meeting Monday evening, HR & A Advisors presented the information that they have collected so far and reviewed a draft downtown profile. Partner-in-Charge Kate Collignon outlined the input they have received to illustrate a strategy for downtown redevelopment. "This is not a ground-up planning process. There’s been a lot of planning that’s already taken place in Plattsburgh. And so learning what we can from those efforts about again, the challenges and opportunities here then filling in some gaps with additional data collection where we wanted to understand more about the physical and the economic environment all of these inform the downtown profile."
Collignon says that the importance of the downtown to the region is evident. "Downtown Plattsburgh, the downtown very specifically, is essential to supporting regional economic development. Primarily for two reasons. One, Plattsburgh is a key node in the Adirondack tourist network, which is really an important part of the regional economy. And two that the urban environment can and does attract young talent. So the more that we work to strengthen the downtown the more we work to strengthen the region."
HR&A consultants presented suggestions in three categories to the planning committee for discussion: creating a vibrant downtown; providing diverse housing and shopping options and attracting and retaining businesses and jobs. An extended discussion among the committee posed potential additions and revisions. Deputy County Administrator Rodney Brown: "Under create a vibrant downtown I’d like to see something about enhancing the visual environment of the downtown. I’m not sure it is really reflected in the three items that we have on there."
North Country Food Coop Manager Jeremiah Ward: "I feel like a lot of community members agree that we specify locally owned independent retail. Because that’s kind of what distinguishes downtown from the rest of the region anyway. Plus there’s a lot of economic development benefits of local business ownership."
Clinton County Legislature Chair Harry McManus: "I’m all for developing what’s already here. But to me the waterfront area, that’s the area that I think we have to look at first and foremost."
Finch Network Consulting owner Amy Bonn: "It seems like maybe we want to pull recreation, highlight it. I know it’s in there inherently but recreation is clearly an awesome opportunity, so recreation.” Collignon responds: “I think the reason we didn’t just say recreation because it’s also culture it’s also basic service services and shopping. But we could add something.”
After the planning committee added their thoughts, members of the public stepped up to offer their perspectives. Some noted that the draft plan appears to pigeon-hole activities in certain areas, ignoring some downtown areas. Others offered infrastructure concerns such as walkability, safety and lighting. Lori Saunders told the planners and panel that the city must remain affordable to recruit and retain people. “The rent affordability. Rents in the city have gone up and they’ve gone up a hundred dollars a month. Same apartments.” A consultant asks: “Over what period of time?” and Saunders responded “The last year. That’s concerning. Don’t forget the young families.”
The next public meeting on the progress of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative will be on November 10th. The meetings are webcast and a link to the archived video is here