City approves revised Durkee plans

An aerial view of the latest Durkee Street site plan as submitted by developer Prime Plattsburgh LLC, Burlington-based Mackenzie Architects and engineering consultant McFarland Johnson Inc. The working draft now includes one building and plans to feature 114 market-rate apartment units, 10,000 square feet of commercial space, a surface parking lot incorporating some public parking, as well as an underground parking garage reserved for apartment complex residents.

PLATTSBURGH — The Common Council OK'd a revised preliminary plan for the Durkee Street development Thursday night.

Though city councilors had approved a draft plan for that site in late May, the latest rendition of this Downtown Revitalization Initiative project addressed public concerns presented at last month's reveal.

Albany County-based developer Prime Plattsburgh LLC was selected to carry out the development and has been joined by Burlington-based Mackenzie Architects and engineering consultant McFarland Johnson Inc.

At the Thursday night meeting, McFarland Johnson Senior Engineer Turner Bradford presented changes made to the proposed development, including added parking, fewer apartment units and increased green space.

City Councilors Rachelle Armstrong (D-Ward 1), Elizabeth Gibbs (D-Ward 3), Peter Ensel (R-Ward 4), Patrick McFarlin (I-Ward 5) and Jeff Moore (D-Ward 6) voted in favor of the revised plans; City Councilor Mike Kelly (D-Ward 2) was absent.

"I hope this conveys our willingness to listen and our desire to work with the city to make a project that's a success to everyone," Bradford said.

MORE PARKING

Of the $10 million state-funded DRI, $4.3 million was designated to transform the City of Plattsburgh's Durkee Street parking area, with its 289 spaces, into a multi-use development.

The Common Council created the City of Plattsburgh Parking Advisory Committee and appointed city employees and community members.

That committee was meant to explore ideas and suggest to the council parking options to replace the loss of public parking spaces.

When Prime's plans for the Durkee Street site were presented last month, the total number of public-private parking spaces was 342.

The plan approved by the council at last night's meeting upped that number to 348.

LESS NEED

Though a small increase, Bradford said, the impact is larger than it seems.

Earlier site drafts had proposed two on-site buildings, but the revised plans condensed those to one.

That building — to be a U-shape located on the north side of the site, closer to Bridge Street — would hold 114 market-rate apartment units and some 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

Both figures are lower than in the May draft, which had proposed 139 apartment units and some 13,000 square feet of commercial space.

"Because we shrunk down our uses and our densities — we lowered our numbers of units and our square foot of commercial (space) — the previous plan's demand for parking, per city code, was 297 (spaces)," Bradford said.

And, according to the city's code, the new draft would require about 240 spaces, he added.

"If you look at the difference between what's being provided and what's being (required). . . the previous plan had a net surplus of 45 spaces," Bradford said.

"This one has a net surplus of 106."

And the underground parking lot, to be reserved for complex residents, was upped from 150 spaces to 165; that lot will still have an entrance on Bridge Street.

GREEN SPACE

Combining the two buildings and moving them to the north side of the site opened up where a southern building would be located, Bradford said.

In the latest drafts, that building has been replaced by a surface parking lot.

Other changes include shrinking apartment-complex amenities and moving them into a courtyard area, within the confines of the U-shaped building.

Community members had been upset with the small amount of green space at the development site, and Bradford said that concern was also addressed.

But some of the added green space could turn commercial down the line, including a portion near the incoming boardwalk on the Saranac River.

"If the commercial retail space that is built builds up," Bradford said, "we think that's a great spot for more commercial space along the walkway.

"But, to start with, (it will be) open green space."

PEDESTRIAN ACCESS

Community member Amber Desjardins spoke on current DRI drafts and her concerns about pedestrian access, both in general and in regard to people with disabilities.

Desjardins had also formerly been appointed to the Parking Committee as a representative and advocate for those with disabilities.

Her overall concerns involved what she sees as the city's lack of consideration for accessibility. She felt sidewalks were being narrowed or removed to make way for on-street parking opportunities.

Also, added driveways, Desjardins said, make for dangerous points of crossings "between drivers and walkers, as well as those in wheelchairs."

Bradford spoke to those concerns at the meeting, saying that every sidewalk at the Durkee Street site would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And, Councilor Armstrong said, the addition of driveways would be looked at.

Desjardins resigned from her seat on the Parking Committee, adding that she refused "to participate any further in public deception."

ARCHITECTURAL AESTHETIC

In response to the earlier proposal, community members stressed the importance in creating a development that matched other buildings of the downtown corridor.

While drafted concepts weren't ready, Bradford said, they were in progress.

"It is our goal to make it blend in with what is there," he said. "Whatever has to happen in terms of dividing up the line of the building to look like multiple buildings and to match what is there.

"We don't want this to be ugly. We want this to fit in and look nice."

Community members have wondered where the site's commercial entities would load/unload trucks and dispose of waste.

In the latest concepts, Bradford said, that would be in the northwest corner of the surface-level parking lot.

"It would be done off street," he said, adding that those services are not expected to disrupt the flow of traffic.

REVIEW TO COME

At the meeting in May, the public had expressed concern after revised plans had only been posted on the City of Plattsburgh website just about 24 hours prior to a council vote.

Having the same process this time around, community member Sylvie Beaudreau reiterated those concerns and reminded city councilors of the DRI handbook.

In regard to the state-funded project, that set of guidelines requires constant communication between city officials and the community, as well as inclusive decision making, Beaudreau said.

"What I'm seeing here is a council that has a decision made where the public does not have the right to comment until the decision is made," she said.

The latest Durkee Street proposal is a working draft, Councilor Armstrong said.

"There's the concept, but then there is the review process," she explained.

"That is ahead."

Email McKenzie Delisle:

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle