In 2016 Plattsburgh was one of the first cities in New York to receive a $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative award. More than two years later there have been no shovels in the ground although planning continues. Officials are holding public information sessions this week to provide updates on the plan. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley was at the first session last night.
About 15 people gathered in the auditorium of the Plattsburgh Public Library to hear from representatives of the city’s Community Development office on the status of the DRI – Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
A PowerPoint presentation from Community Development Director Matthew Miller outlined the project’s history and current status. He reviewed a number of ancillary projects including remediation of adjacent property by NYSEG, expansion of the Saranac River Trail, Dock Street redevelopment and refurbishment of the treatment plant on the waterfront. The question and answer session focused on Durkee Street parking lot redevelopment plans and the city’s move to purchase a bank building to create new parking spaces to compensate for losses as a result of the Durkee Street project. The city is also implementing long ignored parking regulations in the city center. Many of the questions focused on shifting parking patterns and enforcement.
Kevin Cooney: “Why are they starting enforcement before you have some sort of permit plan for downtown residents?”
Davis Merkel: “When this bonding goes out is it going to be the responsibility of the special assessment district to pay that like we pay for everything else down here?”
Downtown property owner David Merkel has been appointed to the newly formed Parking Advisory Commission. He says he wants more information about the plan. “As a long time property owner, someone who has contributed to this, not contributed been taxed by the Special Assessment District which is the city, over the years we’ve spent a lot of money. And we have paid for the lot on the corner of lower Court and City Hall Place, the main lot the main Durkee Street lot, the southern lot by the Kennedy Bridge, the Cumberland Hotel lot. And so a lot of the property owners, they may not be the business owners, but a lot of the property owners feel some ownership in those because we paid for it. It’s kind of like been a gift to the city. They’re the ones playing with it now but we’re not getting a lot of input.”
City resident Kristin Darrah attended a Streetscape and Riverfront Access workshop earlier this month. She wants more information on how the city will use the DRI grant money to make the downtown more approachable for visitors while assuring continued growth. “There’s so many different projects and proposals on the table that it’s not for sure 100 percent how they plan on using it. And it was very clear that there’s a lot more public meetings to come. So just making sure that we’re aware of them so we can make sure that we get there to make sure our voices are heard and make sure that they make the right choices for the city.”
Matthew Miller explains that these meetings are part of the city’s public outreach to give the public a sense of what’s happening with the DRI projects. "Because there was a period for a while when our office was being rebuilt that that outreach slackened somewhat so we felt that it was more than due for the public to get a better idea of what’s happening downtown.”
The DRI award was announced in 2016. Miller says it is a long and complex process and actual physical work should occur in 2019. “It’s very important that people understand what’s happening and all of the different players involved which also gives them a better sense of why sometimes it takes so long to get to the point where you’re actually building things outside. That’s the main point that I’m trying to get across that things are moving forward even though you haven’t quite seen it outside in the street yet. But you will soon.”
A second meeting is scheduled for 5:30 tonight at the Public Library.