North Country awarded $64.8M in economic development aid

The North Country was awarded $64.8 million for a wide variety of downtown revitalization, health, tourism, water-sewer and industrial projects as New York state announced the recipients of this year’s round of Regional Economic Development Council grants.

With $763 million distributed statewide, the North Country received the smallest portion. It also had the fewest projects, 70. “Top Performer” regions received amounts in the 80 millions while other regions’ aid packages were in the $60 million range.

A $2.2 million grant request for a hotel in Tupper Lake was fully funded, a new home for the Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake was partially funded, and the largest request in the region, a new Watertown YMCA, was partially funded.

Tupper Lake awards

Tupper Lake received around 5 percent of the North Country awards, and village Mayor Paul Maroun said he was excited about the results.

“I think that this is going to propel Tupper Lake into the future, especially with a hotel,” Maroun said. “It’s a great day for Tupper Lake.”

The only request that wasn’t fulfilled was one for $90,000 to study what the abandoned Oval Wood Dish factory could be used for, but Maroun said there are future plans for that.

For the construction of a mid-level hotel on Demars Boulevard in downtown Tupper Lake, NorthSouth Construction from Virginia was awarded its full request of $2,195,000, roughly 20 percent of the total budget estimate of $10,975,000.

NorthSouth Construction’s president, Richard LaMere, grew up in Tupper Lake and has been working with local government to bring a facility affiliated with the Tru by Hilton brand to a 3-acre plot of land on state Route 3 (Demars Boulevard) between McDonald’s and Rite Aid.

The proposed hotel would feature 75 rooms, a breakfast dining area, an indoor pool, a fitness room, a business center, a small market and an outdoor patio. The request projected the project to create 20 hotel jobs and 100 construction jobs.

Maroun said he is not currently sure how partnership ownership of the property will be split up between NorthSouth Construction, LaMere and Hilton.

State Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, who attended the event in Albany, said Tupper Lake has “great potential” and that its “possibilities are unlimited.”

“I know how hard Tupper Lake has worked to try to get a newer, modern hotel, it really helps out with their tourism,” Jones said. “I also want to give a shout-out to the people that are working on those projects and the local officials; they’ve done a great job.”

Jones also said the Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory, which received $629,500 even though it was not a “priority project,” is a great educational facility in the heart of the Adirondacks that will attract visitors from all over the country.

The REDC money will be spent toward funding the planned $15 million Astro-Science Center near Little Wolf Beach. It will also help start the Adirondack Sky Festival, an annual event the Sky Center will put on in conjunction with the Wild Center museum.

Tupper Lake will split a joint $500,000 Main Street renovation grant with Saranac Lake and a $454,000 Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant with Saranac Lake and Malone.

Saranac Lake awards

On top of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant Saranac Lake received this fall, it saw several projects supplemented by Tuesday’s REDC awards.

Pendragon Theatre received $500,000 of its $1,330,000 request in its search for a new downtown home. The final expected cost for the move is $6,653,000, and the project is expected to create four jobs and 39 construction jobs. It is also a leading contender for DRI funds.

Adirondack Medical Center, which was seeking $325,816 to offset the cost of rehabilitating its Annex building for $1,629,080, did not receive its award. The new building would provide pulmonary rehabilitation and physical therapy services on the main campus and is expected to create 50 construction jobs.

While Historic Saranac Lake was granted the $500,000 it sought to restore Dr. E.L. Trudeau’s former home and office on Main Street create a public museum dedicated to his tuberculosis treatment. The final project is expected to cost $1,780,000 and is expected to create two museum jobs and five construction jobs. (Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Historic Saranac Lake had requested $200,000 in REDC aid and also incorrectly stated the project’s expected cost.)

Other awards

LPEC Quality Destination Inc. was awarded $65,000 for hosting the 2019 Empire State Winter Games Go Global event. In its 39th year, the games will bring together athletes from across New York, the northeastern U.S., Canada and beyond to compete in over 30 winter sports events.

ADK Gateway, a group attached to the new Frontier Town tourism hub in North Hudson, had a priority project seeking $84,000 to repurpose an old building into an outdoor outfitter store at the Gateway to the Adirondacks tourism hub at the former Frontier Town theme park, but did not receive its award. The full cost of the project is estimated at $504,000 and is expected to create four jobs and six construction jobs.

Watertown Family YMCA, another priority project of the North Country REDC, received $2,133,000 of the $3,209,500 it was seeking to construct a new facility in downtown Watertown to expand its programming and services. The total project cost is estimated at $16,047,500 and is expected to create 30 jobs and 100 construction jobs.

The Carthage Area Hospital, a priority project, got the $3 million it was seeking for a new hospital facility to consolidate two of its outpatient clinic facilities, administration building and hospital by constructing a new medical campus. Carthage Area Hospital is one of several that services the Fort Drum Army base, New York’s largest single-site employer. The hospital project is estimated at costing $65 million and is expected to create 65 hospital jobs and 200 construction jobs.

Citizen Advocates, a provider of mental health, addiction and developmental disability services in Franklin County, received $445,000 of the $979,426 requested for its priority project, a new four-story commercial and residential development on West Main Street in downtown Malone. (Clarification: An earlier version of this article only said that Citizen Advocates is a mental health provider.) The structure will be comprised of up to six new commercial spaces on the first floor and 40 affordable apartments above. It is meant to reclaim a row of blighted buildings. The total cost of the project is estimated to cost $4,897,131 and to create 30 construction jobs.

Other priority projects, such as the Jefferson Rehabilitation Center in Watertown, River Hospital in Alexandria Bay and the Clinton-Potsdam Hospital in Potsdam did not receive their requested awards.

Over $10 million of the North Country awards are for water and wastewater improvements and studies. The awards include $6 million in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits, to be reserved for future projects, including business investments in targeted industries that create or retain jobs, and create capital investment.

Politicians respond

“I’m pleased to see a lot of the funding going toward infrastructure improvement,” state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, said in a press release. “As we know, many North Country communities have small tax bases and lack the financial ability to finance these projects, which not are important for economic development but also benefit local residents for many years ahead.”

“Regional-based economic development is vital for maintaining New York’s thriving, prosperous economy,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release.

“I’m pleased to see the state making investments in the North Country’s ailing infrastructure, which will improve the quality of life for area residents and lay the groundwork for economic development,” Assemblyman-elect Mark Walczyk, R-Watertown, said in a press release. “Moving forward, it’s my hope that investments in the Front Yard of America will continue, yet will not be through the REDC Awards Process that creates senseless competition between regions of the state for tax dollars that should stay in the pockets of the people who know best how to develop the economy: individual New Yorkers, businesses, and local leaders.”

“I am optimistic that the $64.8 million the North Country will be receiving will contribute to the ongoing revitalization of our region,” Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, said in a press release. “However, I continue to have reservations about the method and manner in which economic assistance is awarded to regions throughout New York State. It is time for us to rethink, reexamine and revaluate (sic) how we undertake economic development in our state and to find more transparent, innovative and different strategies and approaches to invest in our communities.”