The High Rock Multi-Use Proposals: Fatally Flawed

ProposedBuildingsI contacted an old friend who is an experienced developer to try to better understand the proposals submitted in response to  the RFP for the city’s High Rock Parking Lot Redevelopment.

I have struggled through both proposals and watched the videos of their presentations.   What struck me most about the proposals were the many unanswered questions and assumptions.

My friend explained to me that there are a number of problems with responding to RFP’s such as those issued by Saratoga Springs.  Foremost is the cost.  Basically developers are acutely aware that the chances of being selected and of then reaching an actual agreement are quite low.  It is hard to rationalize spending a lot of time and money on RFPs.  So respondents come up with some ideas and try to package them into a credible document that can get them “in the door.”  Once they have been selected and have a firm agreement they begin the real work.

He noted that there is a very wide range of character in the developers who pursue these agreements.  Some produce proposals that they honestly believe can be done and are committed to achieve as much as possible.  Others produce proposals that are purely meant to appeal to the fantasies of the municipal organizations issuing the RFPs.   This end of the spectrum expects that the municipality will in the end accept a shadow of what was promised.  The fact is that it is rare that what is proposed does not end up significantly modified and in most cases significantly downsized.

Many factors will contribute to the modifications.  When a full market study is actually done to find out the demand for something like commercial or retail space, it may turn out that there is less demand than initially assumed.  Actual engineering may expose serious problems with the site of the project.  The level of available financing may turn out to be far less than anticipated.  A particular, large tenant may decline to go through with purchasing or leasing space.

Sequence Development is one of the two companies responding to Saratoga Springs’ RFP for the High Rock Parking Lot Redevelopment.  Recently Sequence Development was awarded the redevelopment rights for 1 Monument Square, the land on the Hudson River where the Troy City Hall once stood.  This project has experienced major problems.  An article from the October 9th edition of the Albany Business Review tells the basic story( Link To Business Review Article) .  Reporter Michael Demasi characterizes the project as having been “repeatedly delayed and redesigned.” The article goes on to note “The comments at the IDA meeting laid bare the challenges the development team faces as it seeks an unspecified amount of tax breaks critical to financing the project.”The full article is well worth the read.

In the July 21st Times Union, reporter Ken Crowe wrote, “ The 1 Monument Square project is being redesigned again as architects, business owners and residents question whether the proposed redevelopment plans are right for the city. The design and appearance of the mixed-use building, the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market inclusion in the structure, the use of public funds, lack of a public parking garage and the closing of Front Street were among the issues raised at the Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night.”Further in the article he writes, “Evan Doublas, dean of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute School of Architecture, said there’s a ‘communal sense of disappointment’ over the failure to redevelop the former 1.5-acre City Hall site between River Street and the Hudson River, and that the current proposal [Sequence’s] ‘is not worthy of Troy.’”  Link To Times Union Article

 

1 Monument Square has apparently already been downsized but even in its current incarnation, it remains to be seen whether it will survive.  Whether this was a case of an overambitious sales pitch or a series of bad luck events, I do not know.  It is, however, a cautionary tale about just how difficult these kinds of large projects can be when developers attempt to deliver on their promises.

There is another factor to consider.  My friend tells me that there is currently a lot of cheap money around in the real estate market.  Investors are finding it difficult to find attractive places to put their money and he tells me developers are benefiting from this.  Is this potentially another bubble?  How much money can a developer make playing with other people’s money?

Saratoga’s RFP: The Parking Issue

The Saratoga Springs RFP calls for a minimum of 600 parking spaces.  “Fundamental to this proposal is the requirement to address the current and envisioned parking demand for the Saratoga Springs City Center, City Hall, existing and proposed nearby activities, in addition to being available to the general public and downtown businesses.”  I have emailed Brad Birge, head of city planning, to ask where the 600 number came from (he never responded).  I checked with Mark Baker and neither of the applicants for this project ever contacted him to determine the needs of the City Center.  As far as I know, they never contacted anyone at the city to determine what the city government’s parking needs are. (They currently park a significant number of cars in the lots).

It is important to note that the parking issue is complicated by the fact that the City Center’s parking needs can radically fluctuate depending upon the events scheduled.  To dedicate a set number of spaces to the City Center would be a very inefficient use of parking spaces.  This represents a challenging design problem.  As far as I can tell, neither of the applicants effectively addressed this issue.  Paramount, one of the two respondents to this RFP, proposes to designate one of three levels of parking to the City Center.  They also say they plan to provide spaces to the City for its vehicles.  The number of spaces for the city is not specified. Sequence Development proposes  592 spaces which is less than the 600 minimum called for in the RFP.

The City Center proposes a facility with 480 spaces all of which are open to the public for paid parking.  In addition, after the facility is built there will still be 91 spaces left on the existing parcel.  This represents 571 spaces.   My guess is that the 600 space minimum may have meant the spaces required for the essential needs of the city before any additional needs are created for whatever else the developer builds.  If Brad Birge ever responds I will post how he came up with the number.  If in fact this is the number of spaces required before adding on any additional needs from the projected additional tenants then the two proposals have woefully under calculated the number of needed parking spaces.

I spoke to a local prominent developer and asked why he had not submitted a proposal for this RFP.  He told me that the parking that would be required to meet the current city needs plus the additional needs of any mixed use development asked for in the RFP, given the size of the parcel, made the project unworkable.

The Proposals

The written proposals and a video of the City Council meeting at which they made their presentation is available on the City’s web site.

Link To Podcast Of Presentations By Developers

[I could not find the link on the new city web site to download the proposals from the two applicants.]

So let’s take a look at the actual proposals and presentations.  Given the length of the documents I fully admit that the summary that follows is really my impressions.

The Sequence Proposal

ProposedBuildings

The table below is from their proposal:

Table

This project, to be charitable, is by their own characterization more concept then actual proposal.  It includes a skeletal set of elements.  The primitive nature of their graphic rendering reflects this.

The following people did the presentation for Sequence:

Jeff Hyman of Hemisphere

Jeff Buell of Sequence Development

Mike Phinney of Phinney Design Group (Oddly enough I could not find him listed in their formal proposal document)

A representative from JCJ Architecture (They never gave her name)

Mike Phinney is part of their “team.”  Mr. Phinney is best known in the city as one of the owners of “The Local,” a restaurant and bar on the city’s West side. In fact, he is one of the principals of the Phinney Design Group which is a “multi-disciplinary Architecture, Interior Design and Green Building Consulting Firm” as described on their web site < Link To Web Site>.  Since he was not identified in their written proposal, I assume he was brought in late because of his local connections.

In his public presentation Phinney characterized their proposal as “conceptual plans” and a “process” but not a final design.  He explained that their team wants to schedule public forums and meetings to get community input.  This would be followed by a Charrette with the “stakeholders.”  All of this is meant to involve the community in order to insure that the end product would reflect what people want.

He went on to list a series of appealing images:

“Open Space/Green Techniques.”

“We can create pocket parks.”

“Pedestrian oriented.”

“Office and Retail Development”

“Parking is an opportunity”

The housing will be” work force.”

At one point he asked a member of the team to share her “sketches of thoughts”.

The proposal contains many, many ideas for how the buildings might incorporate green building including roof top gardens.  It speculates about providing space to the city government.  As should be apparent, the project is full of creative ideas but few specifics.

They indicated their hope to work out some sort of PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and to potentially help pay for the parking through moneys from the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency.

He did concretely offer that their plan was for a structure with four levels with 16,400 square feet per level.

Central to their plan in their written proposal was a large space meant for a major employer with from 150 to 300+ employees.  It is interesting to note that earlier in their written proposal they state that their target is a company with 50 to 150 employees.  Apparently there was a need for more rigorous proof reading.  For simplicity sake I am going to assume they will need 150 parking spaces for 150 employees.

They project 106,900 square feet of residential housing.  Their chart (see above) has a column titled “spaces.”  In the row that residential is on they have the number 100.  For the purposes of this analysis I am going to assume that they meant 100 units rather than spaces.  The city requires that there be 1.5 spaces for every unit of housing so they will need 150 parking spaces.

So if we add up the office workers’ needs and the residents needs we get a conservative 300 spaces.

I did a rough Google search on calculating parking for retail space.  According to one site I found, they recommend 6 spaces per 1000 square feet for restaurants and 2 spaces per 1000 feet of “retail-service establishment.”   For simplicity, I estimated that 25% of the retail would be for restaurants.   When you run their projection of 57,800 square feet you get 164 parking spaces.

So I get:                                                                Spaces

Office Employer                                               150

Residences                                                         150

Retail                                                                     164

Total                                                                      464

 

According to their proposal, they “suspect” that “approximately” 250 of the 592 spaces would serve the proposed office and residences.  They say this will leave 342 spaces for “…the Retail component on site, as well as the Civic Center Government needs, the City Center, and the public at large.”  I am not sure what they meant by “Civic Center Government.”  They probably meant the city government.

I calculate that they are actually left with 128 spaces for the City Center, the municipal government’s needs, and the public.  If this number were even remotely correct, they will fall well short of the parking needed.

Their plan does not include a direct connecting structure between their project and the City Center which was included in the RFP but was not made a requirement.

The proposal has them purchase the land from the city for $2,600,000.00 or about $1,000,000,00 per acre.  The city has not had the land appraised so it is unclear how generous an offer this is.

Reliable sources tell me that their retail space would be one and a third times the size of the current retail space on Broadway.  My uninformed opinion is that this is a stunning amount of additional retail for the downtown.  I feel confident that there have been no marketing surveys to show that the demand exists for this much retail.  I assume that were they to be approved for the project, they would do such a survey.  Were it to turn out that there did not appear to be the demand, this would obviously greatly affect this project.

JCJ Architecture which is part of this project does have an impressive track record of developments they have successfully been involved with.

As noted in the introduction to this post, these proposals cannot be seen as firm commitments.   Still, this proposal seems deeply flawed to me.

Paramount Development Proposal

Paramount’s proposal is a joint effort with Community Builders.  Community Builders has an excellent reputation.

Their plan involves the following:

Table

Interestingly, my sources indicated that the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal is very interested in funding housing in Saratoga Springs.  This would suggest that they might find state money for the subsidized elements of this proposal.

In their proposal they project 607 parking spaces.  They would dedicate the top level to the City Center with 259 spaces.  They would allocate 30 spaces for municipal vehicles and employees.  They would allocate 60 spaces for the market-rate and for-sale apartments.  They would allocate 80 spaces for the senior and young family apartments.  Finally, they would allocate 178 spaces for public parking.

The problem here is that the city requires 1.5 parking spaces for each housing unit.  Since the proposal is for 166 housing units this would require 259 parking spaces.  They are proposing only 140 parking spaces for the residences.

They have also not identified the additional parking required by their very ambitious retail plans.

They are planning for a 49,800 square feet of retail.  Using the same calculations for parking related to retail as with the Sequence proposal, I come up with a need for 150 parking spaces.

So the total parking required for this project for just the housing and retail would be approximately 400.  This would leave a balance of 200 spaces for the City Center, the City Government, and the general public.   Assuming that the City Center plan accurately handles the demands for its patrons along with the general public and that the additional parking in the lots is necessary for the public and the city employees and departments, this would result in an enormous short fall.

There also appears to be a fundamental flaw in their engineering analysis.  Their plan requires an underground parking level.  I understood from Mark Baker and from what Tommy McTygue said last spring at the library, that Village Brook which runs under the property, makes this option untenable.  One of the members of the Paramount group told me that their architect had determined from a soil sample that this was a viable option.  He told me that the Hampton Inn had gone down a level.  I checked on the Hampton Inn and found that this was not true.  Since they are planning three levels of parking, this would mean they would lose one third of what they had planned for.  As noted earlier, what they had planned for was inadequate.

My developer friend also told me that underground parking is very expensive to construct and very expensive to maintain.  He told me that his group does everything they can to avoid this.

While this proposal has about ten percent less retail, it still has a great deal of retail.  As with the Sequence proposal, I am skeptical about the viability for scale of retail they are proposing.

Final Thoughts

I am completely sympathetic with the value of a mixed use building that incorporates retail and residential space.  This is axiomatic to the new urbanism.  The problem is that no serious analysis was done about what is viable in the available space assuming that there is a need for a large number of parking spaces.

There were three key issues that needed to be thought through before this RFP was issued.

  1. The first, and it should have been obvious, is what is the value of the parcel?  Before any developer  took the time to prepare a proposal, they should have been told up front what the city wanted either in terms of a lease or a sale price.  If, for example, the land is worth more than the $2.6 million dollars offered by Sequence, then Sequence would have either had to reconsider its proposal in light of how much they had to pay for the land or maybe they would have decided the cost was too great and not answered the RFP.  I simply do not understand how the city could have issued an RFP without doing this basic assessment.  The Mayor has said that an appraisal will be done.  What if the appraisal comes up with a price of more than Sequence is proposing?  Does that void Sequence’s proposal?  I do not know.
  2. The second issue is the lack of clarity regarding parking needs. The  RFP requires a parking component that addresses “the current and envisioned parking demand for the Saratoga Springs City Center, City Hall, existing and proposed nearby activities, in addition to being available to the general public and downtown businesses.” It then states “It is expected that proposals would offer  public parking to serve a minimum of 600 vehicles.”   It is not clear if the figure 600 represents the basic number of spots the city needs.  If it does then the developer would have to create these spaces and then figure on top of that the parking spaces needed for the new commercial and residential space the RFP asks for. The respondents have not done this.  [I noted earlier that a local developer passed on this because he estimated that the parking spaces required to meet existing and new needs within the space allowed was unworkable.  He of course, is a local person who is more familiar with the parking issues in the city.]
  3. How much additional retail/restaurant space can the city handle?  It would be a very serious error to rely on the developers making these proposals to answer this question.  Empty storefronts are something this city needs to avoid!  The city needed to do this analysis before it issued the RFP.

A development of this scale is never going to be easy as I noted at the beginning of this prost.  The debacle that Troy is going through should be a cautionary warning to this community.  To simply go on faith that all the unanswered questions will be answered is simply folly.

The fact is that the rush to get an RFP out was politically driven.  To continue with this folly is to waste staff time and resources.

 

10 thoughts on “The High Rock Multi-Use Proposals: Fatally Flawed”

  1. Lots to say. First, fatally flawed? If that’s the case, then all development proposals are fatally flawed, and all developers should give up and go fishing. The message here seems to be that this kind of RFP isn’t the best, the developers haven’t provided all the details and will have a difficult time making the project happen, so we shouldn’t do it. Well I guess that’s the glass half empty perspective. Let’s try it the other way.
    If what’s happening with High Rock isn’t good, I wonder what the alternative would look like. Perhaps in an ideal world, the process for High Rock would have begun with a citywide parking study, paid by the City, followed by the implementation of a citywide parking plan. Then, a big public process for figuring out exactly what people wanted. The City pays a planning firm to run a series of meetings to come up with a detailed wish list of what kinds of buildings or parks or sculptures or trails would go where. The City pays more on detailed studies of site conditions. More City money goes into detailed market assessments of demand for office and retail space and housing types. Then an RFP with a veritable blueprint gets issued, and developers spend skads on beautiful detailed renderings of the finished product, bringing it all to life.

    Perfect. But what then? An easier process, a better outcome? Everything predictable, under control? What if someone new gets elected who wants a football stadium instead of apartments, tipping the balance of support on the council? Or by luck the project goes forward, the City signs a contract, then one of the partners goes belly up? Financial markets change? Or Crate and Barrel moves to Schuylerville instead?

    Every development involves uncertainty and risk, evolving over time to meet the conditions of the day, until it finally comes to fruition. Financing, marketability and politics affect every potential development, not just those on municipal lands. A certain tall pink building comes to mind. Once done, tenants come and go, reflecting changes that no developer, under the best of circumstances, can foresee. The Borders building replaced the old Red Barn with a big name bookstore. Success! But then Borders left. Should the project not have gone forward because the developer didn’t foresee the changes in the brick and mortar book market? People bemoaned the fact that Congress Park Centre didn’t replace the Grand Union plaza as soon as it was supposed to. But now it’s here, a Broadway flagship, and the past is forgotten.

    We should sympathize with developers who look at the failure of the previous rounds of RFPs for High Rock, wondering if this time will be different. But the fact is, two strong teams have made serious proposals. They haven’t spent the money on detailed renderings, as they watch the City Center parking garage move ever forward as if nothing is happening, while some council members hem and haw. But they’re committed, and everything the City needs to make a choice is there. Why would we root for failure?

    It’s very important to see Troy’s Monument Square project in clear light. As the city’s director of planning points out, this large project has been a moving target for various reasons, like changes in the City’s position partly brought on by a new mayor. The developers have worked hard to adapt. In addition, the project is making slow progress through the approval process because of strong public interest in a parcel of central importance to the city. Is it a complicated process? Of course, as it should be. It’s a big, visible project. The thing to focus on is not that it’s taking time, and it’s difficult, but that the developer is committed and moving steadily forward. Does anyone really think that a different developer with a realistic proposal would have had everyone dancing in smiling Rockette unison? Sequence has done a lot of good projects in Troy. Just last week, Sequence was picked for a renovation of Troy’s Arts Center building over a dozen competitors.

    Then there’s the parking issue. Lots of people are saying lots of things about parking in Saratoga. I’ll say three things here.

    One: Everyone is making excruciating calculations about parking needs, as if there is a magic number, as if this is the only place left in the city for parking, and if we don’t put all the parking we need for all time on High Rock, the city is doomed. This isn’t the only place. Lots of big fields not far from downtown for park-and-shuttle. Existing parking garages were built so that another couple stories could be added. And there’s this great out-of-the-way City-owned lot on the east side of Maple Ave, just north of the High Rock lot, where a parking garage could go. And anyway, the parking professionals say you can’t build your way out of your parking problems. Just throwing up another parking garage isn’t going to make traffic and parking on Broadway look any different. The city needs a city-wide parking management program.

    Two: Until that happens, we shouldn’t turn the High Rock lot, the most valuable piece of land in the city, into parking central for the world. The Hyman proposal currently includes about 650 spaces. That’s a lot of parking. The Woodlawn Ave garage, big as it is, has 450. To get 650 spaces of curbside parking on both sides of a new street, you’d have to make it 1 1/3 miles long. And that’s without driveways or intersections.

    And three: How bad is the parking problem really? How much of the complaints Broadway businesses hear is really that people think they should be able to park a block from the store, and beyond that, they just don’t know where to look? Tens of thousands converge downtown for July 4, Victorian Streetwalk, and First Night. They may have to walk a few blocks, but they all park. Even on Travers Day, with 50,000 fans, everybody parks. For the rest of the year, all those nice wide open parking fields sit vacant.

    Bottom line: Let’s focus on a good mixed-use project that will strengthen downtown, including a substantial amount of parking. But not a thousand spaces. Once we take a good hard look at parking throughout the city, if we need more, let’s find it elsewhere.
    The Council has made a bit of a deal about getting the High Rock lot appraised. That sounds important. If the City were selling the lot outright, it would be very important. But that’s not what’s happening. The City asked for proposals to provide a lot of public benefits, chief among which are City Center parking and public parking. The idea is that, unlike the garages we already have, this new parking would be provided at no cost to the City. Bear in mind, a developer who paid full price to simply buy the lot, no strings attached, would never build parking for anything other than his development.

    By the way developments in Transect Zone 6, where the High Rock lot is located, are exempt from the off-street parking requirements you mentioned.

    On top of parking, the City is looking for affordable housing, nice public spaces, and lots of revenue from sales tax and property tax from the mix of commercial and residential uses expected, likely amounting to over $2 million per year after full buildout. The hold that the City has on what a developer can do greatly reduces the value of the lot to a developer. For instance, the more the developer pays to add parking spaces, the less is left over for a cash payment. And there is no way to calculate the indirect values the City will receive from getting a developer to do what the City wants. For instance, the additional sales tax that comes from people who shop at other downtown businesses because the new development has made it a more attractive shopping destination in general. So the city council isn’t going to make sure they get a chunk of cash equal to the lot’s appraised value. They’re going to compare the proposals to see which provides the most benefits, a small part of which might be some consideration for the lot.

    OK, I better stop.

    Conclusion: In the real world, the process couldn’t be any better than it is. The difficulties that politics impose on making important decisions are inevitable in a democracy. Not to mention a form of democracy called the commission form of government. So unless we think it’s fine to go ahead with a low-bid, monolithic job-free and revenue-free parking garage, because we think it’s all we’re capable of, leaving the rest of the lot a field of asphalt until some day another developer tries to fit something around it, let’s all move ahead. There will be plenty of opportunity for people to participate in the crafting of the final picture. And with everybody’s help, it could be really nice.

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  2. Thanks for clearing up some misinformation, Rick. There are several experts on parking in our city who would be willing to give time gratis to put together a city parking survey/analysis/recommendation – a sensible place to begin a journey toward consensus.

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  3. Rick, I think your last paragraph says it all, lots of great points in there. I like the glass half full approach. Saratoga Springs is a beautiful City, we can do better than a stand alone parking garage with a 98 foot 3 story connector over an existing city street. I was just in NYC this weekend. I saw no such thing over a city street. Even though they are one of the biggest cities in the world, why would our small modest City, feel that the parking needs are so great we will build parking over our streets? Stories high? It’s just a bad design, plain and simple. We all want our city to be the best it can be and to be developed in a thoughtful and appropriate manner.

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  4. Rick Fenton’s piece has a certain charming “what, me worry?” quality to it. I’m sure with his upbeat attitude he would make a congenial companion but I don’t particularly trust his analysis. In addition, as is unfortunately all too common with the High Rock group, he does not have all of his facts straight about the City Center’s proposal which in fact will be a revenue producer for the city, not “revenue free” as he states.

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  5. The inaccuracies about the City Center Parking Garage proposal that this High Rock group perpetuates are constant and consistent. There was misinformation in the flier they handed out at the Framers’ Market this summer. Mark Lawton boldly gave misinformation about the City Center proposal at the RFP hearing. Amy DeLuca had a letter in the Saratogian recently–more misinformation. Public debates about important city issues are important but when one side continually misrepresents .their opponent’s position it does not enhance their credibility nor public discourse,

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    1. Hey, when it comes to facts, we’re really pretty good. So actually, my “revenue-free” contention was shorthand for “too small to mention.” Practically nothing, compared with the better alternative. We have heard that there will be some sort of lease payment, originally projected at $75,000 a year, more recently revised to something like $50,000. Add to that a few thousand dollars in sales tax from parking fees. It’s remarkable that people speak about this as a wonderful thing, even in the face of projections, from developers responding to the first round of RFPs in 2007-2008 as well as the proposals presently on the table. They say that a mixed-use development on the lot would generate somewhere around $2 million a year in sales and property taxes, after either a lump sum sale or ongoing lease payments for the lot. It reminds me of an auction I once attended. I bid early on a nice old lamp that I didn’t really need, stopping at 15 bucks. The bidding kept going higher and finally stalled around 100. The auctioneer turned to me. “I still think 15 bucks would be a good price,” I said. Everybody laughed. Why don’t people laugh when they hear about the paltry revenue potential of a parking garage, knowing that a coherent proposal for the whole lot would generate so much more?

      The interesting thing to note about the City Center proposal for a lease payment is that the City Center isn’t a profit-making venture. It operates at a large and increasing deficit, amounting to over $700,000 in 2014. Not unusual – most convention centers lose money. Their value is in the economic activity they generate for other businesses. The City Center deficit is filled by revenue from the city’s room occupancy tax, now set at 6%. Should the parking garage go through, and the Authority finance only half the cost (last I heard), they would pay around $5 million from an account of accumulated occupancy tax, and finance the rest with a $5 million bond. The debt service on the bond, plus operation and maintenance costs, could run the Authority $50,000 a month or more over time. Since the only source of revenue to pay off the bond is parking fees, and the garage would be surrounded by lots of existing free parking, it’s very possible that the garage would operate at a deficit, putting more strain on the room occupancy tax account. So would it make sense to add a lease payment to the City on top of that, in effect giving the City a bigger chunk of the tax on city hotel rooms? Interesting question.

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      1. “ My revenue free was shorthand for ‘too small to mention’.” Really? I’m disappointed at your somewhat cavalier effort to avoid owning up to your mistake. I think if you are to address important public issues you have a responsibility to be rigorous about the information you use and not depend on “We have heard…” etc. This approach does not enhance your credibility and makes one suspicious of other data you use. If I were you I would also hesitate to be so presumptuous as to speak for others whom you may not even know as in your assurances that “prominent community members are loath to speak up” and “downtown businesses hold their noses when they speak”. Are we really to believe that they have all shared what’s in their heart of hearts with you and lo and behold are solidly on your side? While you are a skillful and persuasive writer you would strengthen your case by avoiding these rhetorical devices, using better grounded material, and honestly admitting your mistakes. Just a suggestion

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    2. Anonymous sir or madame, what was it in Amy Deluca’s letter that you thought was inaccurate? Looks like she was pretty much right on the money. And please remember, lots of people are speaking and writing against the parking garage proposal who aren’t part of Citizens for High Rock. Actually, I can’t think of anyone who likes the parking garage. Downtown businesses say that more parking is needed, and think this is the only way to get it, so they hold their noses when they speak. But sadly, without citywide parking management, this garage would do little to help them. Sadly, prominent community members are loath to speak up about their opposition out of political solidarity. The leaflet distributed at the Farmers Market this summer reflected information available to the public at the time about the proposed revenues from the CCA to the City for the parking garage. The numbers have been a moving target, but now there is some proposal for some form of payment to the City. But as I said in my previous comment, it amounts to very little compared to a mixed-use development, and any payment would only add to the CCA’s operating deficit, made good by the room occupancy tax. That may be fine with City and County officials, but still, an interesting question.

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  6. There they go again. Letter by Lisa Noonan in today’s Saratogian touting the responses to the High Rock RFP states that the proposed City Center parking garage will “take up over 60% of the land available.” Not true. Lisa, Rick, Mark, Amy and other High Rock enthusiasts–you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

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    1. And that’s why we try our darnedest to get the facts right. The fact is, the City Center Authority is proposing to lease 1.85 acres of the 2.62-acre High Rock parcel. That’s 71 percent of the lot. This is a big part of the CCA proposal that people are missing. The design includes 2 entrances on the south side of the monolith, and the ability to charge for parking on the central third of the lot, through which the entrance routes run. The design was conceived apparently under the assumption that nobody would want to do anything with the rest of the most valuable parcel in town but keep it a surface parking lot.

      Now that this has been pointed out, we are hearing that some now are thinking that a future development could include a building erected over the entrance ramps. Not only would such construction be awkward and expensive, hindering access to the garage for some time, but the developer would have to figure out how to design buildings that would work next to a five-story wall of parking. Since the parking garage design is as tall as the zone allows, an adjacent building would have no windows on the entire 4-5 story wall along its length, over 200 feet.

      Then there’s the functionality and desirability of the CC parking garage after a building over the entrance ramps were constructed. Find the entrance on High Rock Ave, drive 300+ feet under a building until you hit the garage, wander up 3 or 4 floors, park, then stroll your way to the City Center, or the street. Not out of the question if you live in NYC. But is that where you would choose to park if you had any alternative? Would it be the best thing for the City Center? Wouldn’t parking space incorporated in a coherent plan for the lot likely be better?

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