Friday, July 13, 2007

i’m (not) lovin’ it

Nestled between the stately Adirondack Trust building by state park to the south and Congress Park to the north, there is a commercial strip that can’t seem to follow the beautification trends that are omnipresent in other areas of the city.

While developers have made quite a herculean effort to redevelop and renovate every corner of the west side and the various capillary streets running off the main strip, South Broadway has remained the bastard child of Saratoga Springs’ commercial zones.

True, there are some properties that have cleaned up, such as Chiantis, the Long John Silver’s-turned-upscale bistro, and Haweli, a long-barren Kentucky Fried Chicken-turned-chic Indian restaurant. And on a whole, many of the businesses try to at least keep their landscaping well-manicured, allowing even the cheap 70s-era architecture style to somewhat blend with the area.

Still, there are several properties that seem to perpetually fall through the cracks in this area. Perhaps the most notable eyesore along the southern corridor is the former Getty station owned by Crown Oil. For more than a decade, town officials have wrangled with the owners in an attempt to wrest it from their clutches for intersection improvements. In the end, the city simply seized the land they needed, but in the process left a sour relationship with the owner, who seems perfectly contented to allow the half-million-dollar property rot into the ground.

Not too far away from this blight is an equally meddlesome spot on the Canfield Street intersection. Hotelier Michael Hoffman once planned to replace a dilapidated garage with a hotel and spa of sorts, but ultimately abandoned the plans with occupancy rates dropped in the city. Today, a sign remains on the site offering to rent space in a new professional building; the estimated time of completion is 2006.

But in both of these cases, the properties in question are vacant and not generating revenue for their respective owners, save for the actual valuing of the parcel. Perhaps the most egregious of all the properties along this stretch is the South Broadway McDonalds. One would be pressed to find a working business along this stretch that is even remotely as unsightly. Even Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s chain doppelganger down the street, managed to put a penny or three into their store to make it a bit more pleasing to the eye.

Not McDonald’s. Despite making what is surely a multi-million dollars’ worth of annual sales, the owners of this chain can’t even be bothered with improving their hideous landscaping, which dwarfs even that of the service stations and car dealerships down the street. Dead or dying evergreen shrubs give the store a ragged, ghetto look; the store’s badly faded colors suggest that there’s been no effort whatsoever to take care of the business.

And why bother changing? There’s a constant procession of fast-food eaters that funnel through Micky D’s at almost every waking hour of the day. They don’t seem to care that the front of the building looks more akin to the abandon building on the stretch than it does a functioning business.Even the McDonald’s at highway rest stops trump this urban blight, which stands testament to the unabated development the city subjected itself to during its darker years.

True, city officials aren’t likely to have much recourse against McDonald’s, as they do just enough grooming to get by without a citation from the code enforcer. However, it couldn’t hurt to send a correspondence urging the owner to get onboard with the efforts to make South Broadway a bit nicer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You got this one wrong. I know the owner, and he is actually planning on leveling the building and re-doing the whole thing over. I believe that it will start this year. He is waiting for approvals from McDonalds corporate and more importantly (and s-l-o-w-l-y) the city. There is nothing more he wants to do than re-make this store.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

If what you say is true, that is great news! Frankly, I hope the council embraces any new plan for that property. I’m no big fan of McDonald’s. And from an aesthetics perspective, there’s only so much you can do with fire-engine red and day-glow yellow. But there are McDonald’s owners out there that have pioneered some pretty revolutionary looks, all things considered.

Having traveled oversees and seen the Madrid incarnation of McDonald’s, the locale over on South Broadway has always rubbed me the wrong way. Where there’s money to be made, some of it should be reinvested into the business and making it look better in the community it resides.

Please, tell your friend or acquaintance to persist with his or her plan to turn the building into something in the character of Saratoga architecture. The ultimate travesty would be if a genuinely nice idea is pitched, but both the corporate overlords and the city council stifle it; in fact, that sounds like the topic of new post if the time comes to pass.

But do keep me posted. If there is a better plan for the property, I’m not privy to it. But I’m more than willing to admit where I’m wrong and won’t hesitate to retract the aforementioned diatribe.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The earlier poster(?) is right. The current owner is working on a new design. Local design will have to trump "corporate design" It can be done in a way that everyone is happy. McDonalds has accomplished a "happy medium" across the country and around the world. This will be a very interesting excercise in bringing Corporate America, local McDonalds ownership and local design professionals to the table with a "Saratoga feel" as a goal.
Corporate McDonalds is pushing to be more like Starbucks in appearance and experience.

The city should hold up the project if it does not look right.

Lets hope for the best.
I am sure we will be proud of the results.

9:28 AM  

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