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Conceptual waterfront plans meet with skepticism from Ogdensburg residents

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OGDENSBURG — It’s back to the drawing board for a consultant who presented conceptual schematics for waterfront development in Ogdensburg to the public Wednesday.

Ogdensburg residents met the plans, presented by edr Companies of Syracuse, with a mix of skepticism and surprise at a public workshop in the City Council chambers.

“This is preliminary and this is an interim process, meaning that it is still going on,” said Jane E. Rice, a consultant with the company. “What we’re showing you tonight is thought provoking.”

The plans call for two new marinas along the St. Lawrence River on the Augsbury tank farm site. The site would include a civic center, a park, and moderate density residential developments like condominiums or town houses.

That plan provoked skepticism for workshop participant Ruth Lincoln, who lives near the Augsbury site.

“As I look at this, I see tremendous congestion,” she said. “The public docks are already very busy. I don’t see anything that suggests relaxation.”

Throughout waterfront workshops in the fall, the Augsbury site was most often proposed as more of an open, public area — but the consultants had another area of the city in mind as a green space.

In the Diamond International and Standard Shade Roller site, the schematics envisioned a large public park including a restored shoreline, a naturalized meadow area and a lawn. The west side of the property would include a scuba park and possibly a research and development facility from a medical center or one of the local colleges.

“We felt that the heart of Ogdensburg is down by the marina district,” said Ms. Rice. “We’re concerned if you put a new development in at the Diamond/Shade Roller site, it would dilute the energy surrounding the area downtown.”

Workshop participants expressed shock that the property, which the city has cleaned up over several decades using hundreds of thousands of dollars of state and federal money, would be left mainly empty.

“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” said one workshop attendee. “We’ve been talking about building housing and businesses down there.”

In prior waterfront workshops, residents had wanted to see restaurants, condominiums, town houses or even an outdoor music venue in the area.

“We need to sell that property and get something down there that will make some money,” said another attendee.

Ms. Rice defended the conceptual design, reminding participants that it was supposed to be thought provoking.

“The expectation between content of development and character of development was reversed,” she said. “We were thinking about what can attract people to your community, and I think this can be achieved quickly.”

Silent approval was given to plans for the marina district, where a marina being built by William D. Hosmer and a revived hotel at the old Ramada Inn site off of West River Street anchor a district built around places for people to work and play.

“We envisioned it as an art and entertainment district,” said Ms. Rice. “We wanted to enhance the health connections here by emphasizing the trail and the marinas as entryways to this district.”

The proposals were missing residential development, noted John C. Buckholz, a program manager in the city Department of Planning and Development.

“We’ve identified through public comment and a marketing study that we don’t have adequate housing,” he said. “Housing has been identified as an area we have to improve on.”

City leaders would not endorse the proposals.

“I’m not going to endorse any of these ideas at this time,” said interim City Manager Philip A. Cosmo. “There were some interesting ideas, though.”

The consultants stressed that the plans were preliminary and that any development is decades away.

“We are excited about bringing these ideas to the community,” said interim City Planner Andrea L. Smith. “They served the purpose of creating a dialogue, and there still seems to be an interest and desire in residential development.”

The next waterfront workshop, which will establish priority projects for the city to pursue, is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 21.

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