DRI project spurs further upgrades at BluSeed Studios

Alongside new elevator — interior improvements and pollinator garden

A rendering of what BluSeed Studios’ Master Plan might look like once completed, including an elevator, pollinator garden, outside exhibition space, landscaping and parking lot improvements. (Provided photo — BluSeed Studios)

SARANAC LAKE — Interior and exterior improvements are planned at BluSeed Studios to complement its Downtown Revitalization Initiative project for a new elevator.

“We thought it was a little further down the road, but this was a great opportunity,” said Kathy Recchia, BluSeed’s operations director and events and outreach coordinator.

BluSeed’s DRI project proposes an exterior elevator addition to the front of the building to improve accessibility to the second floor gallery and exhibition space. Currently, it’s only accessible by stairway.

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant program was started by Gov. Andrew Cuomo three years ago to spur economic development in downtowns across the state.

BluSeed’s DRI requests $250,000 for the elevator, with a total project cost of $281,000.

The Local Planning Committee submitted a list of projects to the state in March with $14.5 million total in DRI funding proposals. From those 19 projects, the state will select $9.7 million to fund, with announcements expected this summer.

“It really started with the seed of the elevator and really got everyone excited to elaborate on that,” Recchia said.

After meeting with the consulting team on the DRI project to hone their proposal, Recchia said BluSeed was encouraged to develop a master plan to accompany the elevator.

“In a small town, people know where they can go and where they can’t go. So they won’t go to a place that they know they can’t get in,” said Erica Neufeld, Bluseed Buildings and Grounds Committee chair. “Once we have the elevator, more people will come.”

She said this has long been a issue at the studio — she mentioned that a regular musician at BluSeed in the past, who used a wheelchair, was carried up the stairs by his bandmates to access the exhibition space.

Additionally, it would make the transfer of art safer and easier for the gallery.

“No one wants to carry their $10,000 sculpture up stairs,” Neufeld said.

If the elevator is funded, next would come some interior improvements. First, the space on the second floor, where the elevator opens into, would be revamped into a lobby space. This would involve reworking some of the partitions between the offices and studio space. Work would be done to make the building’s bathrooms handicap accessible.

Recchia said what they’d like to do next is take down the wall covering the stairs up to the second floor space.

To undertake these interior renovations, Recchia said BluSeed is applying for a New York State Council on the Arts facilities grant. If awarded, Recchia said these renovations will likely start in the winter of 2020.

If it turns out that the state does not choose to fund BluSeed’s elevator DRI project, Recchia said it would likely still be installed, but would take a little longer — and another grant opportunity.

“If we don’t get the DRI, we’ll be really in a strong position for the (Consolidated Funding Application),” Recchia said.

The studio has ongoing work thanks to a Department of Environmental Conservation Smart Growth grant for $39,000 awarded in 2017 for building and site improvements.

Some of that will be used to regrade the parking lot and areas in front of the building in the coming months, as well as finish repainting the building.

“Another more immediate thing that’s part of the master plan is the pollinator garden,” Recchia said. “It should be starting in June.”

In collaboration with ADK Action, BluSeed is planning a garden of native plants attractive to pollinators like bees and butterflies in front of the building. ADK Action is bringing in the seeds and the expertise, Recchia said.

Another element may include the disassembling of a wooden gazebo between BluSeed and Cedar Street and installing a semi-permanent tent.

“We’d take that down and make an outdoor performance or teaching space,” Neufeld said. “By putting in a tent, you can take it down in the winter or when the weathers going to be iffy, which is often.”

Lastly, the DEC grant includes funding for bike racks, picnic tables and chairs. Recchia said BluSeed will hold off on installing those in front of the building until more is known about the Depot Street extension — a DRI project proposed by the village to connect Depot and Cedar street alongside the proposed rail trail.