Ideas to build up downtown discussed

GLOVERSVILLE – Many ideas to help revitalize downtown were discussed at the recent Comprehensive Plan workshop.

About 30 people met Thursday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ for the workshop.

While the new Comprehensive Plan will touch on every asset and feature that makes up the community, the primary focus of the event was on the revitalization of downtown and what can be done to make it more attractive to businesses, shoppers and potential residents.

The comprehensive plan hasn’t been officially changed since the 1990s although one was developed in 2003, city officials said.

John Montagne, who is the planning consultant from Greenman-Pedersen, led the discussion and began with a brief introduction on the Comprehensive Plan followed by a guided discussion with the public.

Christopher Curro, manager of Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market, suggested starting a public benefit organization or business incubator that would have incentives, networks, resources and loans available for the businesses and landlords of the community to not only start new endeavors, but also keep them afloat.

He also said there needs to be attractions that get people out of their vehicles on Main Street, such as different restaurants and pedestrian-friendly spaces.

“It’s the front porch of the whole region,” Curro said about the need of a vibrant downtown. “It has to be a destination for the locals as well as the tourist.”

BID President Karen Smith said the downtown community needs to start attracting an evening crowd with later hours or even showing films at night in Castiglione Park.

Several residents said the city needs to highlight the downtown’s rich history and historic structures.

Lance Gundersen said a city named Brockville in Ontario, Canada, decided instead of only building sidewalks and visual improvements, it established a “story walkway” of everything that happened at that location in the past. He said that also would be great for Gloversville’s long history.

Gloversville Public Library Director Barbara Madonna suggested working with Fulton-Montgomery Community College to have students in the culinary arts program have a college-operated downtown eatery where they could practice and provide a service in the city.

Ward 1 Supervisor Marie Born said the city needs to work on blight and infrastructure because it would be difficult to convince a business to move into “a city that looks like it’s falling apart.”

Department of Public Works Director Kevin Jones said the current Comprehensive Plan doesn’t address development along the edge of the city’s borders, although it doesn’t oppose development there.

However, there wasn’t much discussion about the potential development on the outskirts of the city near the Burger King and Walmart.

“The decline didn’t happen overnight and neither will the comeback,” Jones said. “We have to live long enough to see these types of things happen.”

Montagne said once the new plan is complete it will serve many purposes, including identifying resources, and will be the blueprint for future government actions.

The previous plan was divided into 12 sections which focused on a variety of city topics ranging from visions and values to downtown and recreation, Montagne said.

He said the new plan will use a similar format, although it might add or take away a few parts as the Steering Committee and community sees fit.

The Steering Committee, consisting of city residents and public officials, is going to use the insight from the community to determine how the city can move forward and improve with a new plan.

“It’s never going to be what it was but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be better,” Steering Committee member Robin Wentworth said.

“What the old people remember is what the young people are looking for,” DeSantis said about the future of the city.

In the questionnaire, the public is being asked to highlight the needs, available assets and liabilities of the city and identify both short- and long-term issues within the city that need to be addressed in an updated plan.

They are advised to take the time to fill out the questionnaire and return it to the city even if they are unable to attend one of the workshop meetings. A questionnaire will be available on the city’s website starting next week and can also be found in City Hall.

A committee member also said residents should take a look at the previous Comprehensive Plan to determine what in fact worked and what never came to fruition.

Residents can get the 2003 Comprehensive Plan on the city website, at the public library or by contacting the Department of Public Works office.

A second workshop is planned for March 20 at Boulevard Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.