Press-Republican

April 25, 2014

City to study future growth

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — With a new administration in place and many changes occurring, the City of Plattsburgh will undertake a formal study to see what the future should look like.

“Times change and conditions change, and we need to take a look down the road,” Mayor James Calnon told the Press-Republican recently.

STATE GRANT

The city will launch a formal study, entitled Community Vision and Implementation Strategy, with the aid of a $40,000 grant from the Department of State.

The study will look at short-term and long-term planning, as well as city resources, development opportunities and finances.

A key focus will be on waterfront revitalization and how that area can enhance the downtown corridor and the rest of the community.

“We will look at just about everything,” said City Engineer Kevin Farrington, who will oversee the study.

LAST STUDY IN 1998

The last comprehensive planning study for the city was done in 1998, Farrington said. Several other limited studies on specific issues have been done since then, but no complete study for the whole city.

“The state recommends you do one about every 15 years, so we are about due for one,” Farrington said.

The main idea implemented from the 1998 study was the creation of a Waterfront Overlay District, which eventually led to removal of the Canadian-Pacific Railroad yard from the Dock Street area and development of a waterfront park and boat launch, which has served as the venue for many high-profile fishing tournaments the past decade-plus.

The mayor said this new study will not so much duplicate previous studies as pick up where the others left off.

“We don’t need to re-invent the wheel here, but we may need to dust some of those other studies off and see if some of the things in there are still valid and see where we can go from there,” Calnon said.

WEIGHING PLANS

The new council, which took office Jan. 1, has been exploring ideas for revitalizing the city.

The advent of First Weekends last year brought about temporary closures of City Hall Place, and the council recently approved the use of more than a dozen on-street parking spaces for outdoor dining during the summer.

Councilor Josh Kretser (D-Ward 6) has also suggested the city explore the permanent closures of some city streets to enhance the downtown marketplace.

A few years ago, local planning efforts suggested a major development at the Plattsburgh City Beach complex.

Major plans for a marina development at Dock Street Landing have also been weighed by the city.

Farrington said the study will give the city a better idea of how such developments should unfold.

“We want to be able to identify any opportunities, any constraints there might be and any alternatives we might consider,” he said.

EXAMPLE OF REBIRTH

Calnon pointed to the transformation of City Hall Place downtown about 20 years ago.

The buildings on the street, then known sarcastically in local circles as “The Street of Dreams,” were in poor condition, and some were home to bars known for boisterous behavior.

There was little for retail offerings, and the street was seen as a higher crime area.

With the aid of grant money and willing entrepreneurs, the street was changed to a vibrant dining and retail area that serves as the centerpiece of many city celebrations.

“We need to take a look and see if something like that can happen elsewhere,” Calnon said.

He said the study will not only consider what ideas to explore but show the preferred finance models for such investments.

“If construction is needed for some plans, the financing could be different than it was 20 years ago, and we will take a look at that,” he said.

CONSENSUS SOUGHT

The study will begin within the next month or two, Farrington said, as a consultant is hired. The grant will go largely toward the consultant and for city in-house services.

Local consultant Melissa McManus will participate in the study, and public input will be sought.

“This is a perfect opportunity for community involvement, and we want as much input as we can get,” Farrington said.

“This will help us build a consensus of where we want to go.

“We, as a community, can collectively come to a conclusion that these are the opportunities we want to pursue, so that way, when you go for funding, it’s not just one guy saying he wants to do something; it’s the whole community.”

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

INPUT NEEDED

The City of Plattsburgh's study will include several public forums to get input from residents.

A Project Advisory Committee, with residents and business owners as members, will also be formed.

Anyone interested in volunteering to serve on the committee can contact the Engineer's Office at 563-7730 or email City Engineer Kevin Farrington at farringtonk@cityofplattsburgh-ny.gov.