Plattsburgh Streetscape And Riverfront DRI Plans Reviewed

May 14, 2019

In 2016, the city of Plattsburgh was among the first communities in New York to receive a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant. While there has been considerable debate over plans for the Durkee Street Parking lot, a 3.4-acre site at the center of the redevelopment area, other areas will be refurbished.  On Monday evening, developers presented an overview of streetscape and riverfront access plans.

About $2,800,000 of the DRI funds have been allocated for Plattsburgh’s streetscape and riverfront access improvements.  Behan Planning and Design Senior Associate Michael Allen explained that concept designs to access the Saranac River and upgrade streets in the downtown area have evolved throughout the DRI process.  “There were some public meetings early on that started to discuss with the public well what does our community need? And some of these were identified as priority projects. They fall into two categories the downtown streetscape work and the riverfront access. So from the standpoint of the downtown streetscape one of the things that was identified was developing an Arts Park between Margaret and Durkee Streets as well as streetscape improvements on some of what were considered the priority streets of Brinkerhoff, Margaret, Bridge Street and Durkee Street.”

Allen noted that current designs are based on feedback from previous meetings and online input.  “Many people noted that they would like to see the improvements of café spaces and pocket parks, the addition of plantings, benches and bike racks as well as art. Some of the Arts Park improvements between Margaret and Durkee the idea of a water feature, playground. The public feedback regarding the riverfront access most desired were the addition of a walking path, a connection with the Saranac River Trail, a riverfront overlook and a future whitewater park or kayak launch.”

He then opened the floor for discussion of the current concept plans with a caveat.  “A lot of this is very much in flux in trying to coordinate with the Durkee Street development and coordinating exactly how their development is going to impact or interact with our design. At this point things are such in flux that we haven’t flushed out exactly how this is going to work. We’d like to discuss with you tonight what you would like to see here as far as the materials and design but we don’t have design elements for you to see right now because that’s still in flux.”

Those attending spent an hour and a half discussing numerous issues and ideas. Former city councilor Dale Dowdle asked who would be responsible for the costs of long-term maintenance.  “There’s no revenue being generated to take into the city budget to maintain all this. So  I think as you choose any materials what’s the maintenance and can you maintain the maintenance?”

As Terry Broderick scrutinized the Art Park design, she raised security concerns with Saratoga Associates landscape Designer Emily Gardner.  
Broderick: “That would be somewhere that feels kind of secluded or segregated from the rest of the design from a safety aspect.”
Gardner:  “Maybe we don’t want a lot of shrubs because you want to be able to have good sight lines down there. What level of lighting do we want to have?”

There has been controversy over the development of the Durkee Street parking lot.  Saratoga Associates President and CEO Daniel Shearer emphasized a separate company is working on that. He says any resulting delays from that project have allowed for more coordination.  “The city’s done a really nice job in terms of encouraging communication. There’s weekly conference calls so we can coordinate. So everything’s going in sync as best as it can. There is a level of complexity to it but I think the management of it on the city’s part has been very strong and I think ultimately the product could have a real wow factor because everything’s more coordinated.”

Saratoga Associates hopes to complete designs and begin construction on the Arts Park between Margaret and Durkee Streets sometime this fall.