Developer, town in talks for proposed 60-unit apartment building near Walmart
By Tim Rowland
The town of Ticonderoga, which like most Adirondack communities is suffering from a lack of affordable housing, is in talks with Regan Development Corp. for construction of a 60-unit mixed-income apartment complex similar to the MacKenzie Overlook project in Lake Placid.
Supervisor Mark Wright said he expects Regan to submit plans to the town at an upcoming Planning and Zoning Board meeting this summer. The proposed site is on “fireman’s field,” a former carnival site located behind the Walmart off Route 22/74.
“The whole county is struggling for available housing,” Wright said. “This would be a big game changer, and a major boost to the area.”
According to a recently released study by Camoin Associates, Essex County actually lost 2% of its housing stock over the last decade at a time when — boosted more recently by the pandemic — long-term rentals and former private homes were transitioned into more lucrative vacation properties.
Wright said Ticonderoga has seen some STR activity, although not to the degree of more touristy Adirondack towns. What was more common in Ti during the feverish housing market of 2020-22 was a wave of buyers who purchased homes to fix up and flip at prices that were no longer affordable to local people with local incomes.
“Either way, they become inaccessible to the average homebuyer,” Wright said.
The STR and flipping phenomena also have severely curtailed the amount of long-term rental properties available to those who cannot afford, or don’t want, a home.
“Increasingly landlords have opted for short-term rentals instead of long-term rentals because of the financial benefit,” Camoin wrote. “At the same time, many long-term rental landlords have experienced growing challenges dealing with tenant issues.”
The dwindling supply of long-term rentals has also forced rents to go higher, making rentals only marginally more affordable than buying.
Typically, in such an environment, more supply would be created with the construction of apartment complexes, but for the most part in the Adirondacks that isn’t an option. In fact, Ticonderoga is likely the only other community outside of Lake Placid that fit the bill.
In a conference call with Essex County supervisors last year, Larry Regan, president of Regan Development, said that for rents to be affordable in a project such as MacKenzie Overlook, some degree of government help in the form of grants and tax credits is necessary.
But those grants come with strings. The community must have amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacies, medical care and public sewer and water. As supervisors considered their own towns, one by one they were eliminated for want of some service or another, until Ticonderoga was the only one left.
In MacKenzie Overlook, where there are income caps to qualify for housing, rents range from roughly $450 to $950, as many as 400 people showed interest in renting one of the 60 available units, and 155 eventually entered a lottery that selected the winners.
In his town, Wright said he believes there will also be considerable interest. “It’s challenging finding an apartment in Ticonderoga,” he said.
As plans move forward, community support is a vital component, and Wright said he believes the location in a largely commercial area will make it less likely to attract considerable opposition.
Access would be on a state highway, for which the town has received permission, and not through any residential neighborhood, alleviating traffic concerns.
Ticonderoga is looking at other rental opportunities as well, Wright said, including space on the upper floors of commercial buildings downtown. At least two projects are currently in the works, which is beneficial for renters, but also for business.
“There’s limited space in the downtown for housing, but every apartment helps,” he said.
Join a community of people who care about the Adirondacks and essential, independent reporting. We rely on readers’ support to power this journalism. Will you give today, in any amount?