Downtown Saranac Lake facade upgrades start soon

Real estate developer Wayne Zukin poses at 77 Main St., one of several commercial buildings he owns in downtown Saranac Lake, in June 2015. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

SARANAC LAKE — Work is expected to start later this month on the first in a series of downtown building facade upgrade projects, partially funded by a state grant.

Saranac Lake Local Development Corporation Chairman Paul Van Cott signed contracts last week for renovations to two buildings owned by Pennsylvania-based real estate developer Wayne Zukin: 77 Main St., currently home to Origin Coffee Co., the Human Power Planet Earth bike shop and Earthshine Yoga, and 63-65 Main St., the site of the China Jade restaurant and Belleville and Associates insurance.

“They are prepared to proceed with over $200,000 of facade improvement work as soon as they receive their building permits from the village,” Van Cott wrote in an email. “This is an important and exciting step forward in our effort to revitalize downtown.”

The downtown revitalization campaign was spurred on by a $300,000 New York Main Street program grant the LDC was awarded in December 2015. Since then, the LDC has worked with property owners who applied for a share of the funding to help pay for upgrades to their buildings.

The work planned at the China Jade building, according to a write-up provided by Van Cott, includes cleaning and re-pointing the building’s brick facade, repairing and replacing wood trim, installing new “historically appropriate” front windows and renovating the front entry. The total estimated cost of the project is $105,000, $43,081 of which will be reimbursed by Main Street program funds once the repairs are done.

At the Origin building, $126,000 worth of work is planned, $48,466 of which will later be reimbursed with Main Street program funds: re-pointing and cleaning the brick exterior, structural repairs to the second and third floor balconies, and restoring original doors and storefront windows.

Zukin told the Enterprise Tuesday that work on 77 Main St. will start later this month. He said both buildings will “really sparkle” when the renovations are complete.

“We’re really excited about it,” he said.

In addition to Zukin’s facade projects, Van Cott said the owners of four other downtown buildings partially funded by the Main Street program are in the process of finding contractors or getting a building permit: 97 Main St., home to Bear Essentials and the Community Store; 81 Main St., Blue Line Sports; the Fiddlehead Bistro at 33 Broadway; and St. Regis Canoe Outfitters on Dorsey Street. Three more are in the state approval process: 49 Main St., the Madden’s Transfer and Storage building; Nori’s Village Market at 39 Woodruff St.; and the Ledger Block building at 20 Broadway, home to the S. Curtis Hayes Real Estate office.

As part of the agreement with the LDC, property owners who accept Main Street funds have to ensure their buildings are maintained in good condition for a period of five years. Any residential units that are improved under the program are subject to rent limits designed to keep them affordable to low-income people.

Zukin said the renovations to his two buildings would have been done eventually, but the availability of the state funding allowed the work to happen sooner. Coupled with renovations other property owners are planning through the same program, “It’s going to be a great step toward improving the downtown,” he said.

“Our hope is the program will continue because we have other buildings, and other folks have buildings that need help with their facades, too” Zukin said.

With the exception of Roedel Companies, which is in the midst of a $35 million restoration of the Hotel Saranac, Zukin has invested more in downtown Saranac Lake than anyone in the last few years. He’s purchased a half-dozen buildings on Main Street and Broadway. In addition to 77 Main St. and 63-65 Main St., the list includes the former Green’s Market at 52 Main St., currently home to Ampersound music store and the Adirondack Artists Guild gallery; 37 Broadway, a three-story building that formerly housed Cinderella’s and is now home to Ameriprise Financial, and the two-story 39-41 Broadway, currently the site of Pink and Adirondack Trading Company.

Last summer, Zukin paid $220,000 for 15 Broadway, formerly home to Two Horse Trade Company. He said the building’s upper floors and first-floor retail space are being restored and will be available for rent soon. The deal also included a garage along the Saranac River, behind the former Dew Drop Inn, where the village wants to extend the River Walk. Zukin said he supports that plan.

In recent weeks, the village’s business community has taken a hit with the announcement of the pending closures of two non-downtown stores: Family Dollar on upper Broadway and Radio Shack on Lake Flower Avenue.

Zukin, who lives in Philadelphia and has a second home in Rainbow Lake, said he still thinks Saranac Lake is a great place to invest.

“We’re happy with what we’ve done there,” he said. “We’re doing what we said we would do. We’re taking buildings and fixing them up over time, and we’ll continue to do that with all the buildings we’ve acquired.”