Community hopes to become latest winner of NYS downtown revitalization grants
By Jak Krouse
Lake George has opened up the floor to public opinion on what the community should do for downtown upgrades if they were to receive $10 million from the state.
Answers varied at a meeting held last week. Some attendees wanted an ice-skating rink. Some wanted a public art mural for Instagram pictures. Some wanted elaborate light displays in the winter. The popular vote however leaned toward rehabilitating old buildings, creating more affordable housing and increasing cultural programming.
The city and village of Lake George are working together to apply for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), a $10 million state grant program, and if they do not receive that, a lesser $2.25 to $4.5 million New York Forward Grant. These grants get distributed by the state to public and private projects within a community with the goal of fueling its long-term prosperity.
Lake George Director of Planning and Zoning Dan Barusch said the open house, that ran for three hours, should gauge public interest on what projects need funding most. With consultants helping, the town and village of Lake George administrations asked the community to come to the open house where posters were set up. The public could tape dots to line items listed as community needs or offer suggestions on sticky notes.
“What we get here will help steer the ship, and either corroborate the ideas that we have to spend the money on, or maybe even there’s new projects that come out of those dots and sticky notes,” Barusch said. “We have two transportation project ideas. One is actual transportation. The other is infrastructure. There’s a housing project, there’s a broadband project, I mean, we’re trying to scratch all the surfaces, so to speak.”
For Lake George Mayor Ray Perry, the grant’s impact has the potential to expand far past the original dollar amount to hit many projects.
“It’s a big snowball effect,” Perry said. “Funding can be sought elsewhere to stretch the dollars much farther.”
No matter what, funding for every idea will be impossible. Greg Teresi, a business owner in Lake George, believes the grant’s ability to fund multiple projects presents a solution through compromise.
“The tourist community and the residential community growing together is how the village is truly going to be successful. If one does very well and the other one takes a backseat, it’s never going to work. There has to be some sort of symbiotic relationship between the two,” Teresi said.
Last round, Lake George missed the window to apply for the grant. Since September of last year, the Downtown Revitalization team has been working to develop the best application possible to win the money with a consulting group who has helped other communities win in the past.
As the state has set up the competition, one community from each economic region wins the grant each year. While many of the Adirondack towns and villages compete in the the North Country Region, Lake George competes in the Capitol Region where cities like Albany and Saratoga Springs have won in the past.
Other DRI grant winners
Lake George hopes to join other communities in the North Country and greater Adirondack region that have received DRI grants.
Here’s what those communities are doing now:
- has three major city projects funded in the engineering stages with construction to start in the spring of 2024, said Mayor Vincent DeSantis.
- The city plans to turn Saint Thomas Square into a green public space attached to some recreational options like an ice rink and a skate park. A spot on South Main Street will be turned into a piazza as a public performance space lined with restaurants and housing. Trail Station Park will be expanded on to add a splash pad and pavilion, and protected bike lanes will be added throughout the downtown, said DeSantis.
- Additional private projects that have received DRI money include a $2 million renovation of the Glove Theatre, a renovated three-story residential space with a pub, and a 75-unit apartment complex geared toward artists between City Hall and Main Street. DeSantis said since receiving the DRI a lot of other developers have come to Gloversville interested in doing further projects in the downtown area.
- is planning to use $4.3 million on a downtown makeover, skatepark and riverwalk. The village should begin spending that money in early 2024, according to Director of Planning and Development Fred Hanss.
- The village is spending $750,000 of the grant to help pay small business leases and on facade upgrades on many of the historic buildings downtown.
- Potsdam Food Co-op, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council and the North Country Children’s Museum all received DRI funds directly from the state and are contracting privately to use those funds, said Hanss.
- is creating a series of linked gateway parks, connecting downtown destinations and enhancing the Woodruff Street streetscape. Community development administrative assistant Cassandra Hopkins said all projects are underway and William Morris Park, Ward Plumadore Park and Berkeley Green renovations will be finished by October.
- The reconfiguration of the Main Street and Broadway intersection is estimated to be completed July 14. Street canopies have been extended throughout the downtown and the riverwalk will be extended to Woodroof Street. DRI money is also being used for private projects including the Play ADK: A Children’s Museum, Bitters & Bones brewery addition and the renovation of the Pendragon Theatre.
- is leveraging about 10-fold the original DRI grant money for downtown projects over the coming years, said Mayor Paul Maroun. One notable project is the abandoned Oval Wood Dish factory which will take around $3.5 million from DRI funds to transform the property into 80 blended-income housing units and 70 market driven condominiums. Maroun expects construction by the end of the year.
- The village itself is sponsoring two projects, a renovation of the Park Street streetscape and an Energize Uptown project in which $600,000 will be distributed to businesses along Main Street to help them expand. Maroun expects to take applications in July. Another private project will turn an empty gas station into a mini golf course and ice cream parlor.
- the most recent winner of DRI money, is evaluating which projects to fund. It will turn to a local planning committee before seeking state approval, said Town Supervisor Mark Wright. He said plans to improve streetscapes, improve parks and older buildings and build an ice-skating rink are in the works.
- restored the Lincoln building with $825,000 of DRI money, making the historic landmark a residential and commercial event space.
- Watertown is using $1.6 million of the funds to fix streets in the downtown area while starting work on Jefferson Community College’s Hub for Entrepreneurship Education, said Watertown Planning and Community Development Director Mike Lumbis.
- which received $10 million in 2016 in the earliest round of funding, and used roughly $1 million on the Betty Little Arts Park and splash pad which have seen heavy visitation. The Strand Center for Arts theater was restored as part of a private project, using $750,000. Plattsburgh has used DRI money for rehabilitating downtown commercial and residential space, and the city is working to construct a Downtown Riverfront Walk along Saranac River.
- which also received the grant in the earliest round of funding, is planning to use their money to build a $4 million marketplace as well as create mixed-use development along South and Elm Streets. The city hopes to have a contract with a developer for the marketplace by next month, said Economic Development Director Jeff Flagg.
As a nonprofit, we rely on the support of readers like you.
Join the community of people helping to power our independent,