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Malta's downtown vision remains hazy

A unified vision for the development of downtown Malta remains elusive after a Wednesday, April 30, public workshop on the issue. Though two projects have been approved and are under construction, design standards for further developments have yet to be finalized. Though the board discussed a moratorium, it was decided construction should continue.

Already approved by the town is Park Place, a proposed neighborhood of 238 condominium units, 60 single-family homes and roughly 115,000 square feet of retail space. The development will sit off of Route 9 near the Route 67 roundabout.

Ellsworth Commons where foliage is already being cleared for the construction of 310 apartments, 21 homes and 70,000 square feet of retail space will be located right across the street from town hall on Route 9. Developer Neil Swingruber of Albany Partners LLC says he hopes to begin vertical building in 30 to 60 days and finish up the project in about two years.

Design standards dictate everything from a building's height and distance from the road to its color, and are vital for a unified result. Though these began as mere guidelines in the downtown's visionary years, developers would not be obligated to build according to guidelines. Thus they were adopted as standards in 2004, when the prospect of actual construction was realized, and certain details have been in flux ever since.

There are still concerns with even the proposition of a downtown area, however. Some board members voiced concerns that the introduction of plots of condominiums, homes and stretches of retail space would not be in the spirit of Malta. Councilwoman Tara Thomas was particularly concerned about the possibility of a sprawling Malta downtown.

"I feel we're going to lose our sense of place," said Thomas. "I don't believe this to be our identity. This [type of development] is Wolf Road. It's not Malta."

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