Wednesday, June 5, 2019

DRI Update

Yesterday, the DRI Committee--Rick Rector (mayor), Heather Campbell (treasurer), Rob Perry (DPW superintendent), Andy Howard (city attorney), and Tom DePietro (Common Council president)--and Julie Pacatte, the economic developer from Chazen hired to help administer the DRI, met to continue planning for the implementation of the five City projects: Promenade Hill, the Second Street stairs, the "Complete Streets" improvements below Second Street, the Dunn warehouse, and the North Bay "fishing village," a.k.a. the Furgary. The meeting was primarily focused on scheduling: a site visit to Promenade Hill for design firms interested in responding to the City's RFQ (June 25); a due date for proposals (July 9); interviewing prospective firms (July 11); issuing the RFQ for the "connectivity master plan"--combining the Second Street stairs and the "Complete Streets" improvements (July 8); a site visit for that project (July 30).

Amid all the talk of dates and sequencing, some interesting information emerged. Given that "Promenade Hill Park" (a name introduced by Sheena Salvino but never used previously) has been identified as the first project to be pursued, Gossips was curious to know the scope of the proposed "renovation." Was it the maze of hardscape and retaining walls that never existed before urban renewal razed and configured everything west of Front Street? Or was the historic promenade, which hasn't gotten much attention since its Victorian makeover in 1878, also slated for renovation and refurbishment? The RFQ, which falsely claims that Promenade Hill Park is "considered the Country's oldest public park" (hardly true, but it is the first public space set aside expressly for viewing the landscape), doesn't distinguish between the historic promenade and the unfortunate 1970s "plaza" that now serves as the entrance to the promenade.

The Overview in the RFQ announces: "The City is looking for an inspired park design to renovate and refurbish the park that will honor the historic features and create a memorable park experience for visitors of all abilities." Sadly, it is unlikely that there will be money or time to do a historic landscape report on Promenade Hill, something that should precede and inform any plans for renovation.

Another bit of information gleaned from the meeting is that the nearly $4 million for "Complete Streets" improvements ($3,982,550) is considered to be not enough. For this reason, the RFQ for what's being called the "multimodal project" (Complete Streets improvements and the Second Street stairs) will request a master plan and an implementation schedule. 

And then there is the Dunn warehouse, for which $1 million in DRI funds had been designated. At a Common Council meeting last month, DePietro said that the Dunn warehouse was second in order of priority. Now it seems to have fallen off the list altogether.

The issue of whether or not the City can use the $500,000 in Restore NY funds to stabilize the building without partnering with a private developer seems to have been resolved. It can. But now it appears that Empire State Development wants to attach that condition to the $1 million in DRI funds allocated for the building. Nothing is ever easy.


  1. Meanwhile, according to Rob Perry, DPW will not fix the missing stair into Promenade because "it would be a waste to do that since the DRI project is going to replace everything there," as he said at a recent meeting. The DRI work most certainly will not begin this year, so get used to the lovely barricade and cone as you enter and leave our preeminent public park. We deserve better. BILL HUSTON

  2. When listed with the nation's more substantial public parks, the Promenade or "Parade Hill" is the eleventh oldest. Still impressive, especially when you factor in the reason the park was dedicated.

    It's for that reason - preserved for all time as its grantors' single condition - that a Less-is-More approach should guide any discussions on proposed changes to the Promenade.

    From the Minutes of their March 9, 1795 meeting the Proprietors granted the Parade "to the Common Council forever ... for the purpose of a Public Walk or Mall and for no other purpose whatever."

    This prescription was never amended or modified by the Common Council, while the NYS Department of State has yet to determine whether or not the Common Council can own a park in addition to the other entity our Charter explicitly states the Council may "acquire, own and operate."

    The City would be wise to honor the conditions placed on any and all grants. Unfortunately our adherence to the Proprietor's wishes for Parade Hill occasionally has fallen short, a bad habit which should not be repeated.

  3. i hope they don't "F" it up with "improvements."