Category Archives: Uncategorized

From Grassroots to Saratoga Associates

Here is a company that is steeped in the history of the Saratoga Springs rejuvenation. In the early seventies, Saratoga Springs was a failing city, losing what was left of her grandeur. With no business model to follow, a group of business owners, city fathers, and a city planning firm called Saratoga Associates, banded together to create one of the great revitalization projects in the country. Since then cities throughout the country have followed this formula to rejuvenate their communities. Today, The Saratoga Associates has become one of the premier planning and design firms, not only in Saratoga but the north east.

The Saratoga Associates Logo

The Saratoga Associates Logo

The Saratoga Associates are located in the old YMCA building

The Saratoga Associates are located in the old YMCA building

Bob Bristol is a Founder, current chair, CEO and President, Senior Principal at this time. He and the original founders had all but retired from day to day operations, when their replacement Dan Sitler was overcome by cancer. This tragedy brought Mr. Bristol back to the helm again.

On their Website their mission is – Creating Compelling Destinations, Enriching Communities, Safeguarding Special Places. 
Their services include Landscape Architecture, Architecture and Interior Design, Civil Engineering, Planning & Economic Development, Environmental Regulatory Planning. 

We will focus on their two main local projects in Saratoga Springs. The Saratoga Associates have based their entire business model on their role in the redevelopment of the downtown area of Saratoga Springs. That model was simple

  • Keep downtown the main business center
  • Get People to live within walking distance of downtown
  • Promote businesses that will supply people living in the area with the things they want. 
  • Create governing bodies that will guide this program slowly towards its goal.

And this is the program the the Saratoga Associates has gone on to promote since the day they had a hand in developing it.

Street Wayfinding signage, Building Signage Standards and Historic Buildings

Street Wayfinding signage, Building Signage Standards and Historic Buildings

Green Areas on Streetscape

Green Areas on Streetscape

Broadway in Saratoga Springs 1997

Broadway in Saratoga Springs 1997

The other great Saratoga Landmark that the Saratoga Associates has had a lasting impression on is the Saratoga Race Track. They have created three buildings that will define that track for possibly one hundred years.

Main entrance to Saratoga Race Track

Main entrance to Saratoga Race Track Photo by Randal Perry

Jockey Club Exterior

Jockey Club Exterior Photo by Randal Perry

Jockey Club Interior Photo by Randal Perry

Jockey Club Interior Photo by Randal Perry

It is hard to describe how an organization like the Saratoga Associates has effected our daily lives. Planning is a hard thing to point out as you walk along broadway. There are so many people who have had a hand in the final changes once they began, but there had to be an original thinker that could create and explain a vision so those that followed could move forward. Saratoga Associates are not working in the city very much these days, so it is hard to think of them as a mover ad shaker in town. But it was their minds that got things started.

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Who’s Who Does What In Saratoga Springs

There are players in Saratoga who play in their own sandbox, and there are players who play in other peoples sandboxes. If this makes no sense to you, just wait a few months and I think it will.

I would like to take some time to look at the creative individuals, organizations and businesses that help define Saratoga Springs culture. This will include Architects, Designers, Sign Makers, etc. Over time this blog will have a small overview of the creative talent that has an effect on this city.

A Sign That Franklin Exists

Have you ever heard of Barney Bellinger? Apparently he makes signs. Hand painted signs, and you see his work all over Saratoga Springs. Not on the new signs but the ones that have been around for a while.

Signature of Barney

Signature of Barney

What is really interesting about his work is that is created in a very traditional way, by hand. No vinyl letters or color. He actually uses paint, hand carved letters, and pin striping. 

 

Franklin Square Signage Title

Franklin Square Signage Title

Now, I don’t think you should stand around looking like a crazy person in the middle of downtown, but you might want to walk up to this sign and take a close look at the craftsmanship. The multitude of skills it took just to make this one sign is impressive. The type is spaced perfectly, hand carved and glittering with gold leaf. Design, Typography, woodworking and finishing, all in a four foot tall sign. 

Hand Painted Pinstripe

Hand Painted Pinstripe

So who is this Barney Bellinger? I did some searching online and the sign company is located in Johnstown NY. They don’t have a website so you can’t find much about them. As far as I can tell Barney doesn’t own the company anymore, because he seems to be making furniture at a company called Sampson Bog Studios. 

I would like to see some modern sign makers learn just a few of the skills that it took to create this sign. Here is a break down on why this is such a work of art compared to computer cut vinyl and machine printed signs of today. Sign companies have mistaken software and printer for good typography, gold leaf, and good overall design. You can still design great signs with a computer, but not only because you own a computer.

 

Franklin Square Sign on Broadway

Franklin Square Sign on Broadway

So here is a fifteen or twenty year old sign, that besides some weathering is almost new. It fits perfectly with the Victorian setting of Broadway. This is something to look up to if you are a sign maker or an artisan. It is the kind of sign that gets through the cities design review process in only a few minutes.

Lofty Thoughts at 18 Division

When I first saw the renderings of 18 Division Street, I was kind of shocked.  How would a contractor, particularly one very familiar with the workings of Saratoga, think they could get an imitation factory-style dwelling built in Victorian Downtown Saratoga!? I’ve sat in design review meetings that spent hours on the design of a single downtown store sign. What is the precedent for a factory style building in the Saratoga Springs historic area? As the steel went up during the early phases of construction I lost interest in the injustice, and was amazed at the size of the structure. It was just huge. Nowadays you just don’t see that much steel in a building around the capital region. I remember seeing the brochure, which was very modern. I thought it was very nice, including all the graphics that went with it. I think one of the local companies designed all the identity materials, which they still use even today.  

Lofts at 18 Division Street logo

Lofts at 18 Division Street logo

So now, two years later, what do I think about it? Does it still look like an imitation old factory turned into loft apartments? No. Some architectural features really surprised me. In a good sense that is. A nice mixture of textures were used, including glass, brick, steel, and fake or real stone.   

Glass entrance to 18 Division

Glass entrance to 18 Division

I took this image before Chianti’s was opened up, but You can see it is a pretty nice looking structure. the large windows are reminiscent of a factory, but still clean and modern.  Yet, some parts look just as bad as the original illustration, the dreadful mustard colored dormers. Obviously the architect wanted them to be the most important feature of the building. Nothing else is that color on the entire structure. There seems to be no purpose in highlighting them at all.   

Renderings of original dormers

Renderings of original dormers

Dormers as they look today

Dormers as they look today

So is this a worthwhile building in the new Saratoga Downtown? It certainly is large, so it is hard to overlook, but it is not a feature building, it is a supporting structure that works well, complementing some of the beautiful buildings that exist on Broadway. Luckily, it covers 25 percent of the Wise building, one of the worst building exeriors in the downtown area.

Banners on Broadway

The city of Saratoga Springs is in charge of hanging the street banners on Broadway. I love looking at them from a design perspective and to identify the point they are trying to convey. Earlier this summer I saw several banners that I liked including, The Racino, Saratoga Polo, and Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

 

The whole design of Racino banner, including the logo is quite nice. I will discuss the logo in another entry though. Overall it is a great look that gives it some class that their billboards obviously lack.

 

Saratoga Polo banner on Broadway

Saratoga Polo banner on Broadway

The Saratoga Polo Banner gives great prestige to the polo grounds. This is some really nice branding for that organization. Simple with a touch of old school class.

 

SPAC ballet banner

SPAC ballet banner

The Saratoga Performing arts banner is nice, but there is a lot going on. The graphic and words make things confusing, but SPAC used a simple typeface that works with the large graphic. The banner material really makes a difference in this case, the vinyl is quite stiff and not very natural. Organizations should try and have these printed on some sort of cloth material instead. I’ll find a brand name to use in a future blog.

This Fall I am seeing a lot marketing for breast cancer awareness. Saratoga is no exception. Saratoga Imaging Center has hung up their effort to support the cause.

 

Saratoga Imaging Center Banner

Saratoga Imaging Center Banner

Probably the coolest banner is for Saratoga Rowing Association. It was wrapped around the post so I passed on the photo.

I’ll will keep up with future street banner artwork.

Adirondack Trust

 

My first entry is going to be the overall design of one of Saratoga’s keystone companies, the Adirondack Trust Company. I’m not sure who does their work but I believe it is a design studio in the city limits. The reason they are first is because the design is so well done. Their typography is excellent, very complex, and still easy to read. 

I’m not a fontographer, but I think it is Garamond, which is so traditional that most of us get it for free when we buy a computer. There a a few versions of this logo including an unstacked version that isn’t quite as good.

The agency also uses very consistent design features. I like big areas of color and simple design, but that is just my personal opinion. On the design below, the message is very clear and you know immediately this is an ad for Adirondack Trust.

 

Point. Click. Connect

Point. Click. Connect

I can’t say that anything is overly original in their ads, just well done, and consistent. This allows the viewer to recognize the brand before seeing the logo.

They do have one major inconsistency, and that would be the website. The only recognizable feature would be the logo on top. 

 

I’m not an expert on web design but there is a lot going on here. They tried to place everything on the homepage. I guess that helps in google searches. I’m not making excuses for them, but I’m sure that a bank website is quite difficult to develop.

I thought that I would start out with the Adirondack Trust since it is a keystone for Saratoga business development. It owns some great buildings, and rents space to new startup businesses. The next posts will branch out to the buildings and the businesses that they help support. 

I hope you enjoyed the first Saratoga Springs Culture Compass entry.