Ti receives $10M from state to go toward revitalization efforts
By Tim Rowland
Ticonderoga has been awarded a coveted $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, one town officials hope will turn empty buildings into vibrant storefronts and develop a pretty but underutilized frontage on the La Chute River into an attractive locale for music, markets and leisurely river walks.
“Ticonderoga is a hub for outdoor recreation surrounded by the natural beauty of the Adirondacks, making it an ideal destination for travelers from all across the state and country to enjoy,” Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in announcing the grant. “This funding through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative will help realize Ticonderoga’s vision of connecting its downtown to the surrounding recreational opportunities while also drawing on the town’s deep historic roots to enhance public spaces and attractions.”
Other recent winners of the DRI grant in the North Country have been Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. Ticonderoga officials had been cautiously optimistic that their demographic and potential assets would be attractive to the state.
“We’ve been working hard and heavy on this for the past nine months,” said Ticonderoga Supervisor Mark Wright. “We met about every week, and tasked people to go out and design the projects they wanted to get done.”
Reviving the commercial district — where a few vacant buildings still go by the names they had in Ticonderoga’s salad days, like Agway and Newberry’s — will be a primary goal, bolstering recent improvements made by private developers and business owners.
The DRI will also help develop a focused town brand, an identity that has in some ways been lacking since International Paper bulldozed its Ticonderoga mills a half century ago and moved north of town.
Ticonderoga has a strong background in history and recreation, but Wright said the local committee will leave that matter to professionals. “The worst thing you can do is think you are smart enough to brand yourself,” he said.
The site of the old paper mills is now a green space between the river and the backside of the commercial buildings that reside on Montcalm Street, the main drag in the town’s business district. “Right now, it’s basically an open field,” Wright said. But he said plenty of potential exists for a pavilion, an enhanced farmers market and recreation.
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Funding is also planned for a more user-friendly experience on the La Chute Trail, which follows the river from its upper reaches at the northern tip of Lake George down past a series of falls that powered multiple mills through the heart of the Industrial Revolution and beyond.
On its way, it passes by the Black Watch Library and Ticonderoga Heritage Museum, both of which have planned improvements, as well as the site of a proposed working replica of a colonial-era French sawmill, which was also included in the application, Wright said.
So too will there be funding for the Ticonderoga Community Building, a collonaded neo-Georgian town hall built in 1927 that has grown long in the tooth.
Wright said the state and town will begin to meet in the coming weeks to firm up a project list. The grant includes up to $300,000 to develop a Strategic Investment Plan, with the input of local leaders, community members and business experts.
“The town of Ticonderoga is extremely grateful to New York state and very excited for this DRI opportunity,” Wright said. “We look forward to seeing our vision of economic revitalization completed.”