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Young visions for old OWD

Syracuse University students present proposals for former factory

December 13, 2012
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE - Why settle for just one option?

That was the consensus among Tupper Lakers who were at the Wild Center Wednesday night to hear the ideas Syracuse University design students came up with for the reuse of the former Oval Wood Dish/Jarden Plastics factory. There were two brewery proposals, a hotel, an adventure center and a design think tank.

The 100,000-square-foot building on Demars Boulevard, which has largely been unused since Jarden Plastics pulled out of it in 2008, was once the center of economic activity in the economically depressed town. The local Revitalization Committee has recently started a push to find a new use for the vast facility. The property is owned by Norman Bobrow, who bought it in 2009.

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Syracuse University design students created this rendering of how they envision a brewery’s beer-tasting room in the former Oval Wood Dish factory in Tupper Lake.

SU professor Don Carr, who has a seasonal residence in Long Lake, thought it would make the perfect example for his students to study for this year's 360 competition, which presents students with design challenges on subjects as varied as paring knives and public restrooms.

Twenty-six fourth-year design students split up into five groups to come up with plans. Each group was given the name of an animal that abounds in Tupper Lake.

The students were asked to get to know Tupper Lake, its history and its plans for the future, and take into account its natural resources and the local community. Besides an initial site visit at the beginning of the semester, many students also returned for a second visit or contacted local people for questions or feedback.

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The students presented their final projects in Syracuse on Friday, when the 360 competition was judged, but they brought their presentations to the Wild Center Wednesday night so their ideas could be heard by the people of Tupper Lake.


Design center

The Otter Design Group started off with their idea, the Carn Creative Collaboratory. The OWD would be converted into a design workshop that would house designers for temporary residencies. The designers would teach workshops to the public and come up with designs for goods to create, some of which would be chosen to manufacture on a larger scale.

The team used examples of lamps, tables, chairs and prints. Each residential session would have a "prompt," or a subject that pieces would be expected to represent. They used the example of Frank Lloyd Wright for their sample lamp, print and bolo tie.

The idea would help increase tourism, bringing people to the area to experience the creative energy of the design center and to participate in the facility's regular "Tupper Talks."


Brewing company

Trout Design presented their idea of turning the OWD into the Tupper Tap Brewing Company.

Their plan includes brewing 30,000 gallons of beer a year, plus encouraging homebrewers with their "brewers' sandbox," which would give people a chance to experiment with making their own beer.

There would also be a tasting gallery, which would allow visitors to try Tupper Tap beers, beer from popular homebrewers and beer from brewers across the state.

Group members said that they don't see their idea as competition with other startup breweries in the area, like Raquette River Brewing and Big Tupper Brewing, which are both in the works. Instead, it would help foster a growing beer network in the state.

The group also included ideas for reuse of the "spent grain" that is the waste created from the brewing process. They want to bake bread with it and also create biomass pellets from it to heat and power the facility - and beyond, if enough is created.


Adventure center

The Hummingbird Designs team want to turn the OWD into the Adirondack Adventure Center.

The AAC would be a recreational center where people could get training in outdoor skills, through a rock climbing wall, a marksmanship area, a pool and even a fake river where people could practice boating.

It would also be the base camp for guided and unguided adventure trips, and people could rent equipment like kayaks and climbing gear there.

Families and business groups could come to the facility for training, and locals could recreate and train there in the off-seasons when outdoor activity is less desirable.


Brewing cooperative

Team Bear wanted to turn the OWD into a beer brewing cooperative.

The Tupper Lake Beverage Co-op would offer three levels of packages to people who want to try their hand at brewing beer, giving different amounts of time and access to the business' facilities.

The co-op would hold monthly "Tupper Taste" events in which people could come and try the various brews created, vote on their favorites and even invest in their preferred beer with the opportunity to make money if it becomes successful.



The Loon team wanted to remake the OWD into the Smokestack Hotel, which would include a spa, restaurant, cafe, pool and banquet hall.

The hotel would encourage activity packages in which visitors could get the full Tupper Lake experience, setting them up with things like snowmobile rentals, guides and teachers and equipment to try cross-country skiing.

The Stack, the hotel's cafe, would feature French-Canadian- and Adirondack-inspired food using locally sourced ingredients, and offer boxed lunches for people going on excursions.

The hotel would also include a wood shop that would build furniture for the hotel, all of which would be for sale, and also build things like wooden boxes for boxed lunches.

The hotel would also include an indoor retail area where local stores could open up a location where they could sell handmade goods and get a concentrated group of shoppers.



After the presentations, each of the groups participated in a poster session, answering questions and talking with people.

Tupper Laker Fred Schuller said he was impressed with the ideas.

"All we need now is money to do it," Schuller said.

He said he liked the hotel idea the best, because it's most geared toward increasing tourism in Tupper Lake.

Jim LaValley, who is in the development stages of opening his Big Tupper Brewing company, said he tended to like the ideas that included brewing beer, but he thought all the ideas were good. He noted that, with the size of the OWD, there could be room for elements of all the ideas.

"There's an opportunity to blend ideas," LaValley said. "Why leave it at just one?"

Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun agreed.

"I think there's the capacity in that building to handle parts of all of this," Maroun said.

He said the important part is that the new ideas are helping the community start to open its collective mind about the possibilities for the long-dormant facility.

"I think it's made us think in a different direction," Maroun said.

The Revitalization Committee is starting to work on a study of the area the OWD is in through a Brownfield Opportunity Area grant. Melissa McManus, who heads up the committee, said parts of it met earlier Wednesday with a representative from the state Department of State who will oversee the study. The representative then came to the presentation to hear the students' ideas, along with many members of the Revitalization Committee.

The study will look at potential uses for the OWD and the areas around it, look at the costs and potential profitability of any such ideas and come up with a redevelopment plan, McManus said. All of the students' ideas are worth further consideration, McManus said, and she also put forth the idea that various elements of each plan could be put to use.



It wasn't mentioned during the presentation, but the group who planned a brewing co-op were the winners of the 360 competition. Carr said afterward that he didn't want to make Wednesday night about who won and who didn't, because he said all the ideas were perfectly valid.

The Bear group won a $2,000 prize for their work.


Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or



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