SARANAC LAKE — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul on July 25 announced which proposals would be funded as part of Saranac Lake’s $9.7 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.
State officials picked 10 projects from 19 submitted by the Local Planning Committee in March. They include the relocation of the Pendragon Theatre, the creation of the Play ADK children’s museum, the expansion of Bitters & Bones to accommodate a brewery and beer garden, the establishment of a downtown shared office center, plus public-sector improvements to several local parks and streets.
Dozens of residents, local officials and business owners gathered at Berkeley Green July 25 under clear skies to hear which projects would receive funding. The sun shone brightly across the small patch of greenery as people milled around, chatting excitedly amongst themselves in the lead-up to Hochul’s announcement. The commotion drew a handful of onlookers, one of whom stopped and watched the crowd for a moment before asking reporters what was happening.
“I’m here to declare that we are on the cusp of greatness in this community, and it’s starting here today with these projects,” Hochul said.
“This is going to have a wow factor, an impact in a very short period of time, all at once. I’m here to tell you, in the next three to four years, this community will be taken to new heights because of the $10 million we’re talking about today.
“You will say to your kids and your grandkids, ‘I was there. I was part of making that happen.’”
Most of the projects awarded funding were either infrastructure related or had commitments from private investors.
Pendragon Theatre was awarded the largest portion of Saranac Lake’s DRI funding.
At the Berkeley Green July 25, Hochul said the state will contribute $2.5 million to the expansion and relocation of the Pendragon Theatre from its current home on Brandy Brook to 56 Woodruff St. The total project cost is estimated at $6.5 million. Lee and Nancy Keet of the Cloudspitter Foundation committed funding to the Pendragon Theatre contingent upon the project securing DRI funding.
After hearing the news, the audience cheered, and Pendragon board President Holly Wolff stood, grinning wildly as she shook hands with those around her.
“I didn’t know it was happening until I got the announcement,” Wolff said afterward. “This just helps solidify so many things. It does not raise all the money we need, but it helps give other people confidence that a lot of people in the local community have supported this, that we need it and that it’s going to be a major benefit to downtown Saranac Lake.”
The state will also invest in the theater’s new street: The Woodruff Street urban design and streetscape project will receive $1,994,000. This project is designed to improve pedestrian and bicyclist accessibility, improve intersections and bury utility lines.
As part of a separate project, crosswalks, trees and pedestrian signal lights will be installed at the intersection of Church and Woodruff streets; the Dorsey Street parking lot will be redesigned to improve access to the riverwalk, which will be completed; and an urban forestry project along Broadway and Main Street will add and improve trees and planters there. All of these improvements were allocated $1.06 million by the state, $1.08 million less than the local committee had requested.
Three parks will receive funding for improvements. Two of them were submitted by the local committee, Berkeley Green Park and Ward Plumadore Park. One wasn’t but had appeared in earlier DRI planning materials: William Morris Park. Altogether, $1,078,000 will be shared between the three.
At Berkeley Green, a public bathroom will be added, as well as a stairwell to the Vest Pocket Park on Main Street and improvements to make it more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists. At Ward Plumadore Park on Broadway at Bloomingdale Avenue, two terraced plazas, a foundation for public art installations and decorative paving will be installed. The entrance at William Morris Park will be reconfigured.
A total of $411,000 will go toward the development of a whitewater park. That’s $384 more than was requested. This project will modify a small portion of the bed of the Saranac River below the state Route 3 bridge, making it more accessible for whitewater kayaking.
Bitters and Bones on Broadway will receive $381,000 to expand the tavern to accomodate a new brewery, beer garden and rooftop dining space, $500 less than was requested.
Altogether, the project is expected to cost $740,000.
The state will put $993,055 into the first phase of renovating a former Branch and Callanan warehouse at 33 Depot St. for Play ADK, a children’s museum.
“I had no idea. I was actually not feeling very good about it because I hadn’t heard anything,” Play ADK Executive Director Robert Carr said afterward. “I was managing my expectations. And I’m absolutely thrilled. I was shocked and surprised. I think it’s a really wonderful investment in a project that’s going to be transformational for Saranac Lake.”
The total project cost is more than $2 million, a gap that will require some private funding. Carr said the museum is on its way to meeting that goal, thanks to a $200,000 private investment contingent upon the museum securing DRI funding.
The Historic Saranac Lake museum will expand from its current location into the neighboring building at 118 Main St., the former home and office of Dr. E.L. Trudeau, with help from $325,000 from the state. The total project cost is $914,423.
The Carry, a proposed entrepreneurial office hub, will be established downtown with $400,000 from the state and $256,500 in private investment.
The state will also contribute $600,000 to a $1.2 million grant program for building improvements, site upgrades, commercial buildouts and rent subsidies.
ROOST CEO Jim McKenna, who co-chaired the Local Planning Committee with Mayor Clyde Rabideau, praised the state’s selections and said the projects will go a long way in making the village a more attractive visitor destination.
“Good visitor destinations are geared really around good communities,” he said. “Good communities have to be diversified, not only in their industries but in many different areas, to be successful.”
Five years from now, Rabideau said he sees Saranac Lake becoming a place with a bustling downtown. He said the village is “well on its way.”
“I see even more vibrancy, if you can believe it,” Rabideau told reporters Thursday. “We’re vibrant now, we’ve got a lot of great things going. This is the catalyst to reach that next plateau.”
Nine projects the Local Planning Committee submitted did not receive DRI funding.
Among those rejected were the renovation or creation of new amenities at several local businesses.
Nori’s requested $133,000 for a new pocket park. BluSeed Studios requested $250,000 to install an elevator. Tops Market requested $250,000 to renovate the exterior of the store and improve the streetscape along Church Street. T.F. Finnigan’s had requested $219,250 to renovate the rear facade fo the clothing store at 79 Main St., add new commercial space and renovate interior residential spaces. Black Mountain Architecture requested $184,000 toward an expansion project. An Ulster County corporation requested $822,500 to put toward constructing 133 Broadway apartments. None received funding.
The village also pitched some projects that didn’t make the final cut. A request for $250,000 toward branding and marketing of Saranac Lake did not receive funding; nor did a proposed downtown art installation for $200,000 or a $1.3 million request for the Depot Street extension.
“This doesn’t mean the other projects aren’t viable,” McKenna said.
He said project leaders have until Friday to submit consolidated funding applications.