PLATTSBURGH — Many downtown streetscape projects in the planning stages here require coordination with other DRI initiatives, designers say.
“The one thing we can move — knock on wood — forward pretty quickly with is the arts park,” Behan Planning and Design Senior Associate Michael Allen said at a meeting Monday night at City Hall.
“In fact, we’d like to get moving right away on that and try and get something moving this year, if possible.”
RIVER ACCESS, STREETSCAPES
The City of Plattsburgh has allocated a combined $2.9 million of its $10 million state-funded DRI grant for riverside access projects and streetscape improvements.
Of that, $100,000 is for grant administration, leaving $2.8 million for design and construction improvements.
At a public meeting last December, Allen said their goal was to provide the City of Plattsburgh “with the best improvements we can, with the budget we have.”
Intended use of the riverfront access budget is for projects that include Macdonough Park improvements, a riverfront boardwalk at Durkee Street, a river overlook, kayak launch and improvements to other city walkways.
The streetscape budget is intended for improvements to up to five downtown streets, protected access on Veterans Memorial Bridge and the transformation of land between Margaret and Durkee streets.
The latter would be the location for an arts park.
Then the Macdonough Park and street/sidewalk improvements will start to fall into place, Allen added.
Behan is assisting Saratoga Associates with drafting plans for those two projects.
Allen, who led the Monday night discussion, said both teams wanted a “‘pencils down’ moment.”
“And get your feedback on some of the elements that we have showed you tonight,” he said. “And some of your ideas, as far as some of the streetscape materials you hope to see (and) on lighting.”
Based on community input via dot polls, focus groups, a mailed and online-accessible survey and the December 2018 meeting, the Saratoga companies have been able to narrow their focus for each project.
In looking at the arts park, the public had prioritized amenities such as shaded seating, a water feature, a playground, trees and landscaping, public art and a performance space.
The performance space was nixed after community input pointed out the area would be too small to include it, Allen said.
The next sketch of the future park included green space, shaded seating, bike racks, places for public art and a splash park for kids.
But in a later meeting with City of Plattsburgh officials, Allen said, it was suggested that a splash park might not be a good fit for that location.
“The splash park, as located here, wouldn’t really have any dedicated parking,” he said, since that amenity could attract a larger crowd of people.
“There was concern about the availability of parking, that perhaps a splash park would be better suited at a place where we have more dedicated parking.”
A return to the drawing board developed the rendering of that park, with tiers sketched in, that was introduced this week.
At the top, closest to Margaret Street, is patio seating; down a level towards the center is a water feature.
The final level, nearest Durkee Street, is a public art section.
Community members at the session expressed pros and cons; cons included issues with the water feature.
Some worried the fountain and its pool could be a safety hazard, while others regretted the loss of the splash park.
Saratoga Associates Landscape Designer and Planner Emily Gardner said the fountain in the sketch is simply a placeholder and asked for direction.
There is an option of doing a ground-level feature with spouts spraying water that could drain at central location, she said.
Some liked the idea, thinking the area would make for a hybrid water feature/kid play area.
Saratoga Associates President and CEO Dan Shearer said that idea isn’t unheard of.
“The thing that’s neat that we have at the Battery Bosque (in New York City’s Battery Park) is that it’s also got lighting tied into it,” he said.
“So, really, kids can have fun on it; it’s a safe environment,” he continued, “and then, at night, it’s really attractive.
“We are absolutely here to get that feedback.”
AIM FOR LONGEVITY
The designers asked for similar input on materials that the public might prefer for use in building the various features.
While some materials may look more attractive, they could be harder to maintain and vice versa, Gardner had said.
City resident Doug Butdorf said he, personally, would put emphasis on long lasting materials.
“At the end of the day, if you look around where we are right now, with our existing city planters and other things and the conditions of everything,” he said, “is that we’re not really very good at making things stay very nice.
“So let’s build and let’s design in a way that makes sure that we can keep it looking really good as long as possible.”
Conversation turned to potential updates to city streets, too.
At the top of the priorities list are streets such as Durkee and Bridge, as well as Margaret.
Those plans could include updated lighting, wider sidewalks, patio seating and benches, trees and safe bike paths.
But smaller updates to other downtown byways, like Clinton Street, are on the table, too.
“We’ve seen in other cities where you have a street where maybe not every storefront is occupied,” Gardner said, “and just making some sidewalk and lighting upgrades — suddenly all of the shops are full.”
Those small upgrades make for a nicer street that ups foot traffic, she said.
“It supports the businesses, and then it kind of goes from there.”
RUBBER HITS ROAD
“As we move forward on updating some designs, we’ll look for ways that we can get additional feedback,” Gardner said.
“Please stay active on this,” Shearer said. “This is really where the rubber hits the road for us.
“We’d like to get to work on some of these projects.”
Find the presentation used at the recent meeting posted on the City of Plattsburgh website:
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