$13 million in awards helps ‘Crossroads of the Adirondacks’
By James M. Odato
If economic developers in Tupper Lake reach their goals, the former Oval Wood Dish factory will smell like a brewery before long.
Bikers will be able to cycle off the rail trail and glide into downtown. And boaters will tie up at new docks at a municipal park a block from restaurants and old buildings with 21st century facades.
“It’s going to be great,” said Mayor Paul Maroun. The village got a package of public grants exceeding $13 million to help realize the dreams of a major facelift to the western Adirondack village.
Among the biggest winners are the developers of the former Oval Wood Dish complex, a shuttered factory on the northern edge of what Maroun refers to as the uptown district that is being targeted for rehabilitation.
Oval Wood operators plan to build a mix of housing, training and commercial space and received a $2.5 million state grant to help in what may be more than $30 million in investment.
Joseph Gehm, leader of the development team for the factory, said the project is on course although he is eager to strike a deal with the state on tax credits toward the housing component. About a third of the project is commercial, and the first business commitment to the space has come from the nearby Raquette River Brewery.
Although the arrangement isn’t final, brewery co-owner Mark Jessie said the idea is for his Tupper Lake brewpub and brewery to expand into 22,000 square feet of space at Oval Wood. That will allow for substantial growth in production and another five jobs.
Already, he’s sent three brewers to Schenectady County Community College to train. “We haven’t funded this project, we’re hesitant to say yes we’re doing it,” Jessie said.
The village estimates the expansion at $1 million and Maroun said it could result in the new space being used for a visitor tour and tasting room.
Gehm, of Lahinch Group, hopes to begin work on 90 apartments at the factory by mid-2022 and the construction may be completed by the end of 2023.
The Lahinch project also received $500,000 in a Northern Border Regional Commission grant for infrastructure upgrades at the former factory site.
The village won another $348,000 for waterfront redevelopment for new docks and fixes to its ballpark and stadium.
In December, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration announced $10 million under the Downtown Revitalization Initiative for projects that the village will be advancing to Albany for approval.
They will include work to support the Oval Wood venture and to bolster village aesthetics. Plans call for façade improvements, a new marquee for the State Theater and a wall to replace the windows on the arts center.
Other projects would add bicycle lanes, pedestrian lighting, street trees, benches, crosswalks and other amenities in the Demars Boulevard (Route 3) and Waterfront Park pedestrian area. A street redesign is also imagined in what the locals bill as a village that has become a regional destination, the “Crossroads of the Adirondacks.”
Although Tupper Lake presents some empty storefronts, it has benefitted already from more than $16 million in private investments and nearly $50 million in public sector investments around downtown since 2014, officials said in their presentation to the state.
The 2006 creation of The Wild Center, a museum and outdoor attraction built with public and private funds, served as a “catalyst” for revitalization, the village officials said.