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Downtown Gloversville revitalization plan revealed

Brian Ellis places a sticker on a list of recommendations from the Gloversville Steering Committee to mark what he thinks is most important during an open house on the city's Downtown Development Strategy at the Regional Chamber of Commerce on Friday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE–The city held an open house to give locals the chance to review the final draft of the downtown development strategy that officials hope will expand future grant opportunities.

Three consultant teams, LaBella Associates, In.Site:Architecture and Creighton Manning Engineering developed the report based largely on community input and market analysis.

“It’s a community-led and market-supported plan for downtown,” LaBella Planning Division Director Edward Flynn said Thursday. “Downtown is poised for redevelopment, a lot of good things have been happening and we want to build upon that and create more capitalist type projects for the downtown.”

The plan was developed over the past year with input from two public meetings, a community survey, a downtown business owner survey and other meetings with business owners, stakeholders and the city’s steering committee before the final draft was presented in an open house at the Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“What the downtown development strategy is, is really a roadmap for the city and for its partners to redevelop downtown in the next 10 to 20 years, but at the same time it’s also information for developers who want to invest in downtown Gloversville. It has a lot of good information in terms of data and some other information,” Flynn explained.

Local residents and city officials review the final draft of Gloversville's Downtown Development Strategy during an open house at the Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

The city’s hope is that the strategy can be used to support future grant applications and as marketing materials to encourage private investors to develop projects while also directing city led initiatives in ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.

“The city, when they apply for grants, has something to support their narrative. Certainly information from this plan could be used to do that and then at the same time, for developers, there’s a ton of information in terms of data that they can use,” Flynn said. “And we have community input so developers are aware of what the community wants.”

During the open house, area residents were able to review the strategy and offer any final feedback they had before the final draft is presented to the Common Council at the end of July.

Goals of the strategy include developing the upper floors of existing buildings for residential and office uses, attracting retail and restaurants, providing opportunities for infill development, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, supporting small business growth with funding and ensuring there is adequate parking.

To achieve these goals, the strategy recommends focusing on the development of 50 new residential units in existing buildings, developing new mixed use infill buildings that host 100 new residential units, developing two to three new regional restaurants totaling 10,000 square feet and establishing innovation or incubator zones for retail, restaurant or art space.

Additionally, it recommends establishing a small business fund, attracting a limited service hotel, developing new parking by obtaining sites through foreclosure or developer acquisition, developing a phased approach that focuses on particular corridors to generate momentum, creating a downtown creek corridor, making downtown pedestrian and bike friendly and obtaining funding for a variety of improvements.

The city is already making headway with some recommendations like making downtown more bike and pedestrian friendly through a host of safety improvements slated for North Main Street funded by a $660,000 state grant the city received earlier this month.

The city will also be applying for a state grant to develop a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan at the end of next month to guide future redevelopment and open opportunities to secure grant funding for projects along the Cayadutta Creek and downtown.

Some recommendations can be implemented within the next six months to a year, such as the establishment of a small business fund to provide matches for building improvements and eliminating currently permitted uses in the city’s zoning that are incompatible downtown including rooming houses, single or two family homes, adult entertainment, warehouses and utility scale solar uses.

Other items can take as long as five to 10 years such as developing residential units and regional restaurants. These items in particular are needed to make downtown livable, in turn spurring on further development.

“We have to get people living downtown,” Mayor Dayton King said Thursday. “We’re talking about chicken and the egg and I think really if people are here then more happens.”

King noted that the soon to be open Estee Senior Apartments on North Main Street will bring about 37 new residents to downtown, but he said more apartments are needed to build that number further.

“I think really if people are here then more happens, rather than just doing some of the structure and hoping people come, so I’d like to just build our density,” King said.

To fund revitalization, King said that more private investment is needed, but the city can play a role in that by partnering with investors to submit state grant applications as was the case for the City National building owned by Scott Hohenforst that was awarded a $750,000 Restore New York Communities Initiative grant for renovations.

The city partnered with Hohenforst on the application that will be used to renovate the former bank building, converting the first floor lobby into a space that can be used as a restaurant or brew pub.

Residents who reviewed the downtown development strategy during the open house had mostly positive things to say, like Sally Olsen, an investor in Schine Memorial Hall from Galway, who attends church in the city.

“I’m encouraged that residents and the city leaders are interested in revitalizing and bringing new life to downtown in some of the underutilized buildings,” Olsen said. “I think LaBella has done good work and they’re making achievable recommendations.”

Lifelong city resident Brian Ellis said he has been involved with downtown revitalization efforts for a number of years and was impressed with the strategy.

“I think this is amazing,” Ellis said. “I absolutely support it 100 percent especially as someone who is planning on staying here.”

While Ellis supports the overall vision of the strategy, he did question the timeline for some initiatives and how projects in historic buildings would be funded.

“These buildings are historic, they’re old as the hills, it’s not as simple as you just go in and throw up some sheet rock. Each building is unique, they were built at the turn of the century,” Ellis said. “They all have different problems.”

The restoration of historic buildings for use is the thing that most appealed to Fort Plain resident John Laffan who serves as vice president of the board of the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market.

“I think it’s a great effort, it shows real community input of a large core group of people,” Laffan said. “I’ve actually never seen this kind of detailed analysis or comprehensive presentation.”

Following the presentation Flynn said the consultant groups would review the comments and preferences offered by area residents during the open house and make any revisions to the final draft before it is submitted for approval by the Common Council most likely at the July 24 meeting.

Once approved, the strategy will be submitted to the state for comments and approval before it can be used to support state grant applications by the city as early as next year during the next Consolidated Funding Application cycle.

The final draft of the city’s downtown development strategy can be viewed at City Hall or on the city’s website at cityofgloversville.com/downtown-gloversville-improvements/.

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