SARATOGA SPRINGS — A neighbor who is also a structural engineer is cautioning the city planning board to address potential problems with drilling and excavation below the city’s groundwater level before approving plans for a six-story building on Broadway.

David Biggs, a consultant who works internationally, said that the proposal for 269 Broadway that would be sandwiched between and tower over Saratoga Central Catholic High School and NBT Bank, will require a so-called secant wall for two floors of underground parking that will penetrate a principal aquifer and possibly disrupt capped springs.

“I’m not anti-development at all,” said Biggs who is among the principal founders of Ryan-Biggs Associates in Clifton Park, and who lives across the street from the Broadway site. “I just want to see that the building does not create problems that we are not going to be able to resolve easily afterwards.”

Biggs described a secant wall as a giant bathtub that would need to be erected below the mixed-use building. That requires drilling into rock and then casting concrete like pilings around the entire perimeter of the building. These pilings interlock, Biggs explained, to  seal off the water. The wall is then braced from the inside to hold back the earth and water while the rest of the building is constructed. The dirt and rocks that fall into the bathtub during construction will be carted off, while seeping water will have to be pumped out.

SaraSpa Rod and Gun Club in Greenfield already promised to take the dirt from the excavation. Biggs explained that the water, which currently has an unknown volume, will likely have to exit through the city’s sewer system.

“The secant wall is quite deep, it’s close to city street, it’s close to an adjacent building to the north, it’s close to utilities in the street,” Biggs said. “If something goes wrong on this, it could go very wrong. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s done all the time, it’s just it’s not done in Saratoga.”

Prime Group Holdings in Saratoga Springs is the developer on the project that would feature retail and a civic space on the first floor, offices and a restaurant on the second floor and offices throughout the rest of the building. The underground parking will be accessed from Hamilton Street and will have room for 71 cars. 

When asked about concerns of building over an aquifer, which the full environmental assessment form from May 2020 described as the city’s “principal aquifer,” Prime Group’s Executive Vice President Gerard Moser said “all of Saratoga is an aquifer.”

“If you look at any building in Saratoga, every building is built on an aquifer,” Moser said. “We are not different than any other building. I personally pulled other paperwork for other buildings like ours and it’s the same paperwork as ours.”

While the initial application mentioned an aquifer, another environmental assessment review was issued in November that noted there would be no impact to the water table and will have no impact on groundwater or an aquifer. This new review, Biggs said, confuses the issue. 

“Is it a primary aquifer or is it not?” Biggs said. “The application to the city said it clearly shows the water is there. But now there is no groundwater or no aquifer.”

Moser argued the building will be erected exactly like the one across the street at 268 Broadway where many of the residents who oppose the proposed building live. He also said that he chose the secant wall foundation because “it is the best (choice) within a city.”

“It eliminates or minimizes may of the other disturbance’s that come along with building a foundation,” Moser wrote in an email. “Albany Medical Center expansion used a secant Foundation. Given how sensitive of a location the Albany Medical Center is, eliminating or minimizing disturbance’s is extremely important. The drilling is done by a low frequency drill with the majority done under ground. The drilling is done first, this is why it is preferred method in cities.”

While many of the neighbors oppose the project (800 signed a petition against it) some members of the city’s Design Review Commission do, too. When narrowly approved by the commission in a 4-3 vote in January, one opposing member said it looked “like a cruise ship docked on Broadway.” 

The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation has its own concerns with the project – mainly, as they recently stated in an email – with its “height, scale and mass.”

Others oppose the building because they say it will create more traffic in an area already congested and where Broadway narrows down to two lanes. Hamilton, where the parking garage entrance will be located, is also a two-lane street.

At the April 14 planning board meeting, one resident who attended said the board recommended that the Prime Group get a hydrologist. Moser said on Friday that one is involved. 

Biggs said Mayor Ron Kim, the city’s planning department and the city’s engineer Deborah LaBreche understand the issues, but he also feels that the planning board relies too heavily on what the applicant says and less on the public who might have expertise in these matters. He also feels he should not have to wave his credentials to be heard.

“I should only need to go and say, here is the issue,” Biggs said. “You write a public comment, but don’t feel you are being listened to. It’s disappointing when it’s your own city.”

Source Google News – Read the original article

Engineer has warning on Saratoga Springs building project – Times Union

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