Northwood on Main design outlined in Placid

LAKE PLACID – Northwood School’s plan to convert a former bookstore on Main Street into educational space for its students was unveiled to the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board Wednesday.

Northwood on Main, proposed in the former With Pipe and Book store at 2495 Main St., would house educational studios for robotics, filmmaking, TED talk presentations, entrepreneurship and design.

“It covers a broad spectrum of disciplines that all foster innovation and creativity,” said Michael Maher, Northwood’s head of school.

Northwood is a private boarding school with roughly 165 students located on Northwood Road, on the opposite side of Mirror Lake from the former bookstore. The former With Pipe and Book is one of two buildings Northwood purchased last year for more than $2 million. The other is the old Lake Placid Club Balsams Cottage on Norsnol Road, which the school plans to use for student housing.

Maher said the Main Street storefront was attractive to the school for a number of reasons.

“The square footage of the building is perfectly suited to the kinds of programs we want to run,” he said. “The visibility of having it in downtown Lake Placid is undeniable. And it’s just part of a larger, philosophical belief we have that being part of the community concretely is better than being apart from it. That sort of breaks from the tradition of boarding schools, but I think it’s best for our school and best for Lake Placid.”

Tom Broderick, North-wood’s assistant head of school, and Javier Ramirez and Bonnie Peters from Massachusetts-based OMR Architects outlined the plans for the building to the review board Wednesday as a group of Northwood board members and alumni and project engineers sat in the audience in the North Elba Town Hall’s third-floor meeting room.

“We have decided to keep the original footprint,” Broderick said. “We felt strongly that, programming-wise, it was best to encompass the building all into one as presently designed, and fit all the programming on the three floors we have.”

School officials had initially planned to include faculty housing in the building, but that’s not happening now “because to do so would cramp the program, which is the most important part of it for our kids,” Maher said.

The roof would be replaced, new windows would be added to all three floors, and a balcony area would be reconstructed. A prominent original staircase on the outside of the building would remain, and an elevator would be added to that side of the structure.

Much of the discussion surrounded the various redesigns OMR presented of the external staircase. Board member Christine Varden suggested some features be added to the three-story elevator shaft to give it more relief and texture. Board member Bob Dimarco suggested attaching fake windows to it.

“It is a concern that you have something going from the top to the bottom of the building, one vertical element,” said board Chairman Bill Hurley. “We generally try to break that up with textures, colors or designs.”

Northwood officials and their architects said they’d come up with a way to improve the look of the elevator shaft and respond to other questions raised during the meeting.

“We tried to listen to their concerns, which we found legitimate, and we’ll modify our design accordingly,” Maher said.

The board scheduled an on-site visit next week. A public hearing will be held on the project at some point.

Demolition work has already started inside the building. Once Northwood gets a permit to start the renovations, Maher said the work would take about eight to nine months to complete.

“We want to get going with the first stage of it, which is the roof, and then take it incrementally until all the funding is in place,” he said. “We’ve had a good start to our funding efforts, and we expect that to continue. Our hope is to be in the building sometime next year.”