Woodruff agenda: DRI project could link proposed rail trail, River Walk, sidewalks
SARANAC LAKE — Aiming to connect gaps in the village’s sidewalk and trail system, a Woodruff Street project would rework the streetscape to connect downtown.
The total estimated cost for the project is $2,568,664, of which $1,993,664 is being requested from the village’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant package.
In March, a Local Planning Committee made up of municipal, business and community members submitted a slate of $14.5 million worth of DRI requests to the state. From the 19 projects submitted, the state will select $9.7 million worth to fund, with awards expected to be announced this summer.
The DRI is an economic revitalization program for downtowns across the state, started by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015. One city or village is chosen per year from each of 10 state regions. Saranac Lake won it for the North Country in 2018, the program’s third year.
Village Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski said the idea for this particular project was born out of plans to repair a sewer main under Woodruff Street.
“If you’re ripping the street up and you’re going to put it back together, what would be the ideal way to put it back together?” Konkoski said.
That thinking led the village to develop two segments to the project: the section of Woodruff between Broadway and Church Street, and then the section between Church Street and Bloomingdale Avenue.
Broadway to Church
The project proposes to keep the sidewalk on the NorthWind Fine Arts gallery side, as well as the parking lane. The street would remain one-way, but the sidewalk on the south side would be removed. A two-lane bike or multi-use path would be demarcated instead — just painted lanes, but a space for more alternative traffic.
“But that requires burying the utility lines. If you walk down Woodruff Street on that side, the utility poles are right in the middle of the sidewalk,” Konkoski said.
That utility work is what raises the cost for this segment of the project, Konkoski said. Broken out, segment one is estimated to cost $2,164,168, with the village covering $575,000 and a DRI ask of $1,589,168.
“That generates more traffic on that street, and with Pendragon (Theatre) potentially relocating on that street now, it just seemed like this would be a really important corridor,” Konkoski said.
The idea is to encourage people to walk. With restaurants on Broadway and Pendragon planning to move to the corner of Woodruff and Church, the village plans to use this project as a way to connect the two.
Pendragon Theatre is sponsoring a separate DRI project to relocate to 56 Woodruff St. and expand the vacant structure there. The total project cost for the theater is $6,538,000, with a DRI request of $2,500,000.
“We don’t want them to drive to the restaurant, then drive to the theater,” Konkoski said. “We want them to drive, get out of their car and then experience downtown on foot.”
Part of that is building some kind of gateway. String lights between roofs across Woodruff Street are one vision, but the idea for an archway over the street has also been discussed, Konkoski said.
“But some kind of aesthetic feature, whether it’s the string lights or an archway that, again, just creates a sense of place and importance for the street as a connection between the two corridors,” Konkoski said. “So that’s the main goal for the section between Broadway and Church.”
Church to Bloomingdale
The estimated cost of segment two is $404,496, with a DRI ask for all of it.
“The improvements to (these) segments are really looking at how to fill gaps in the sidewalk network along that section of Woodruff Street,” Konkoski said.
It’s not just the sidewalk, though. Another DRI project by the village to complete the River Walk would, if funded, continue that path alongside the former Dew Drop Inn and past Tops Market to Woodruff Street. The total project cost for that work is $904,414, with a DRI ask of $754,414.
Railroad tracks, which the state plans to convert into a multi-use trail, cross over Woodruff on a bridge near Bloomingdale Avenue. The Woodruff Street DRI project presents the opportunity for the village to link the rail trail into the River Walk and sidewalk systems. While the engineering for creating a path from Woodruff to the rail trail hasn’t been done, the conceptual work has been, Konkoski said.
It’s “super-important” to provide “opportunities for people to leave and come off the rail trail right into downtown,” Konkoski said. “If you’re coming off the road from Broadway, we want to draw people down to the theater, but if people are coming off the rail trail, and now they’re at Nori’s (Village Market), we want to them to know they can continue down Woodruff onto Broadway. And then there’s even more retail and shops there.”
On Woodruff Street itself, the village is looking to add on-street parking as well as sidewalks where there are gaps. This would require the village to work with Adirondack Eye Care and Nori’s to keep crossings to a minimum, Konkoski said.
Nori’s has its own DRI project to establish a pocket park at its Church-Woodruff Street corner, with a total project cost of $146,000 and a DRI ask of $133,000.
“So this one has been identified as kind of a key project because it’s a gap in the existing trail and sidewalk network downtown,” Konkoski said. “And with the proposed projects, uniting those two corridors is now more important than it ever was.”