As part of its $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative award, the city of Plattsburgh plans to redevelop the Durkee street parking lot adjacent to the Saranac River. But a downtown food co-op is concerned that the plan to revamp parking will hurt business.
In August of 2017 Plattsburgh city officials met with consultants to begin a parking needs assessment in advance of the downtown redevelopment. In mid-December recommendations were presented to the community. Proposals include rearranging parking in the city center, constructing parking garages and paid parking. “My primary recommendation is go from a free open system to a managed parking system. You don’t have any choice. Because when Durkee Street happens if the parking system isn’t managed, if those spots aren’t put back, if things aren’t taken care of you will effectively have more cars downtown than parking spaces. And that will be chaos.”
Jon Forster of the city’s consultant, Carl Walker Inc., provided a presentation noting the DRI is a unique impetus to change how the city deals with parking. “It would be great to build a couple really nice small parking garages that could serve everything for free. But you’re talking about millions of dollars. Where does that come from? Funding that just doesn’t exist at this time. And so someone has to start paying attention to parking. Right now it just runs itself. It’s just there. It can’t just be there. Somebody has to pay attention to it because you guys are not that far away from driving downtown and literally not finding a spot.”
Plattsburgh Director of Community Development Paul DeDominicas says the city needs to change how it handles parking while the downtown is redeveloped. “We do need to change the way we handle parking given the fact that the DRI is going to change the scope of the city. But we have a bit of homework to do on policy. And you know the recommendations that he brought forward really was more of a philosophical change to parking. But we’re not at the point yet where the city has decided what was going to happen with parking.”
North Country Food Co-op is the only downtown food market. During the presentation, co-op members raised a number of concerns about proposed changes to the Durkee Street parking lot, which sits across the street from the co-op and is the largest downtown lot. Co-op founder Carol Czaja fears the co-op’s growth could be compromised if the parking plan is implemented. “We’ve spent almost $600,000 renovating the coop you know this year. So from our point of view we’ve spent a lot of money investing in that building so we can stay downtown. So we feel that we should have a major voice in what happens downtown. Maybe no more than any other business but we’ve had double digit growth since this renovation occurred and so we just don’t want to see it all thrown away because suddenly parking and the access to the store is diminished in any way.”
The consultant’s findings and recommendations are posted on the city of Plattsburgh’s Community and Economic Development webpage.