PLATTSBURGH — Members of the City Common Council are trying to clear the Durkee Street-development air.
City Councilors Elizabeth Gibbs (D-Ward 3) and Jeff Moore (D-Ward 6) took a walk through the downtown corridor last week.
Their hope was to check in with various businesses, listen to any concerns and put an end to potential misconceptions.
Gibbs said recent petitions, protests and social media posts against Prime Plattsburgh's current drafts for the city lot sparked the venture.
"There's so much rumor out there and false information," Gibbs said, adding that the two councilors didn't get too far with their walk.
"The businesses that we ended up engaging with wanted to talk — they had so much to say," she said. "This is going to have to be an ongoing effort."
Development of that city-owned lot's 289 spaces is part of the city's Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Earlier this year, Albany County-based developer Prime Plattsburgh LLC was selected for the project.
Recent drafts of the site include one U-shaped building to hold 114 market-rate apartment units and 10,000 square feet of commercial space.
Also on the site would be 5,000-plus square feet of future development space, a walkway connecting the waterfront to Margaret Street's Arts Park and 345 combined public-private parking spaces.
Gibbs said downtown business owners had one heavy concern with the plans: future parking.
A repeat suggestion from the downtown businesses was to build a parking garage, she added.
"We explained to them a couple of reasons why that wouldn't work," Gibbs said. "No. 1, it's prohibitively expensive. It would just not be a good usage of city funds."
City officials have previously said the construction of such a structure would be a multi-million dollar investment.
Another issue is having a large enough piece of property, Gibbs said.
"We don't have any property like that that we'd be willing to explore."
Gibbs said she also heard a recurring rumor.
"(Downtown business owners) had heard that the parklets were going to go away," she said.
Those street-side areas seasonally replace some on-street parking and various restaurants and businesses are selected for them each spring following an application process.
They allow patrons to eat and/or lounge outdoors while at a downtown business.
Gibbs said she and Moore were able to dispel that falsehood.
"That isn't something that (the council) has talked about at all," she said.
The Harborside was referenced a lot, too.
Gibbs said that is something she has long talked about with constituents.
Many businesses wondered why the Prime development couldn't instead be built at the Harborside — an area just off Dock Street by the city's marina.
"My response to anybody that has brought that up is, for me as a council member, I see it as a huge safety risk," Gibbs said. "The train track that runs through that area, would cut off any accessibility from the road to the structure.
"Depending on the time of day or what type of train is passing through — whether that's a freight train or passenger train — you could be looking at three, five, maybe longer, minutes if there were an emergency.
"We wouldn't have any way to get there."
Besides that, she added, the area could best be used as a space for other developments.
The Common Council has already discussed moving the Plattsburgh Farmers and Crafters Market to that space, as well as developing a dog park or pavilion.
RELYING ON OTHERS
Some also wondered the fate of the Special Assessment District and the plan for snow-ban parking, Gibbs said.
Though nothing has been solidified, the city's Parking Advisory Committee has been exploring those details since January, she said.
"I think the rumors are doing the talking for a lot of people," she said. "They're under the impression that we're not talking about the tenants and that we're not talking about winter weather — these are all things that we are constantly talking about."
And, she added, a lot of that miscommunication stems from access.
One revelation was that the business owners aren't going to meetings.
"They're too busy running their businesses," Gibbs said. "So, if you are in that position, of course you are going to rely on what others are saying, what you read online and so forth.
"My response to that was: Well, that's why we are here. We're trying to come to you to deliver the message."
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