GLENS FALLS — Developer Chris Patten on Tuesday went before the city’s Planning Board with an offer.
Patten, whose plan to build a four-story mixed-use building on an undeveloped plot of green space on the corner of Glen and Bay streets has sharply divided some residents, said he would be willing to donate just under half of the 23,000-square-foot parcel to the city so it can be preserved as a park.
The Queensbury-based developer said he first made the proposal to donate 10,000 square feet of the commercially-zoned land — the equivalent of about 44% of the entire parcel — in a Feb. 25 letter to Mayor Dan Hall, but never received a response.
“The property’s about 25,000 square feet. I read the papers, I read the comments. I know exactly what’s going on. People want to see a park; they want to see a grassy area. I’m not trying to be the big-bad builder that’s just taking over the park and ruining everything,” Patten said.
He added: “With my new design only building on 56% of the parcel, I offered directly to the mayor, and whoever else needs to hear this, 10,000 square feet, or 44% of the parcel. I offered that as a free donation, at no charge to the city. I received no written response.”
Hall, on Wednesday, said he spoke with Patten about the letter on Monday and reiterated the city has a desire to acquire the property, which sits directly across the street from City Park.
“We would rather see it in the hands of the city. That’s all I’m going to say on that,” he said.
The city, Hall said, is looking at ways to acquire the property, including the use of eminent domain.
“We’re going to keep all our options open,” he said. “As I said, the city’s thoughts are to keep that as a green space.”
But Patten, who restored an adjacent building at 274 Glen St., contends that he should be allowed to develop the property, which sits in a commercially-zoned district and can accommodate commercial properties and multi-family dwellings like the one he’s proposing.
He had originally planned to build a five-story, 64-unit apartment complex that modeled the footprint of the old Glens Falls Insurance Co. building that once stood on the site before it was razed in 1976. The property, which is currently owned by 333 Glen Street Associates, has remained undeveloped ever since.
The plans would have required the city to alter its zoning laws and were never formally submitted to the Planning Board for review.
Patten, who has since altered his plans to fit the current zoning requirements, has a contract to purchase the property, pending Planning Board approval.
But the Planning Board tabled his proposal on Tuesday, citing a lack of details, including those pertaining to stormwater management and landscaping.
“The site plan review and architectural plans are not adequate for this board to act upon. For one thing, the site plan is far too small. It lacks a lot of detail in respect to stormwater management, landscaping, etc. And the same goes for the architectural consideration,” said Planning Board Chairman Daniel Bruno.
Patten said the plans he submitted — which call for 43 one-bedroom units spread out over four floors and a unit of retail space on the building’s first floor — are simply a concept and would be altered once the project is approved.
“I am trying to merely get through a concept with everyone here tonight. If and when we get through the concept, I full intend on providing quite a bit more,” he said.
Patten said his final plans would take into consideration various building designs found throughout the downtown area, and include the use of materials that would allow the structure to blend in with already existing structures.
“I want the building designed to blend in with other buildings, not to stick out as a modern eyesore,” he said.
But Patten’s proposal has received pushback from some residents, who maintain that an apartment building has no place in that part of downtown, which is home to the Three Squares Historic District.
The proposed complex would sit next to the historic Episcopal Church of the Messiah and directly across from the city’s Civil War soldiers monument.
“I think it’s inappropriate for that intersection. I think it’s the most historic intersection in the city. The monument to the Civil War and the Church of the Messiah are basically the heart of the city,” said Paul Hancock, a local resident. “To have any other use there, like a commercial-residential apartment complex would be completely inappropriate.”
He added that he’s not against developing the property for something like an art store, and said the city should instead be focused on developing affordable housing units.
Judy Calogero, who heads a number of economic development boards for the city, said Patten’s proposal is flawed and that the property would be better utilized as green space.
“We believe it’s in the best interest of the city for this long vacant lot to remain open and available for public use,” she said.
But Patten said the property has always been privately owned, and he has the right to develop the parcel.
He added he has plans to address stormwater runoff as well as an agreement with 333 Glen Street Associates to accommodate parking for up to 80 vehicles, and that he’s willing to work with city officials to address any concerns relating to the project.
“I will work with the city. I want to work with everyone on the Planning Board. I want to go through sketch-plan review. I want to build something that is beautiful and historic and compliment the church,” Patten said.
Most of the Planning Board declined to comment on the project, citing the need to see additional plans, but one member, Ethan Hall, said it’s possible for Patten to build his project while addressing all the concerns raised.
“I think that there’s certainly things that could be done and I think Chris’s track record does show that he will put the time in, put the effort in, and make something that’s going to be a nice feature for the city,” he said.
Peter Accardi, another Planning Board member, said the project has a “good layout,” and that he didn’t understand the objections surrounding the proposal.
City Park, he said, is underutilized and the old insurance building was still standing when the city was declared “Hometown USA.”
“City Park is hardly ever used. You could go down there in the wintertime and you could see nothing there. In the summertime, homeless people get around the entrance to the park and lay around and do nothing,” he said.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George and Washington County government. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.