ORDA eyes parking garage for Lake Placid

This parking lot, which is primarily owned by the Lake Placid Central School District, is where the Olympic Regional Development Authority has started doing tests to see if it could house a parking garage in the future. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — The Olympic Regional Development Authority is exploring whether a new parking garage could be built behind the Olympic Center, where the Lake Placid Middle-High School’s staff parking lot is currently located.

News of the potential project came at a meeting of the Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education last week.

Superintendent Roger Catania said ORDA is in the process of testing the stability of bedrock in the school’s upper staff lot on Cummings Road, behind the center and across the street from the middle-high school.

That parking lot is currently split in two, separated by a small patch of uneven pavement and an outbuilding. Though some visitors and ORDA staff use one section of the parking lot closest to the Olympic Center, the property itself is mostly owned by the school, save a triangle of land that encompasses around 15 parking spaces, according to tax records.

“ORDA has been doing some testing in that lot, and they’re doing core samples to explore the strength of the bedrock with the possibility (…) that they would want to construct a parking garage that would span both of our parking lots,” Catania told the board last Tuesday. “We would be partners in that with them, should this come to fruition.”

Catania said the project “hasn’t been finalized, hasn’t been approved” and he “hasn’t even seen any plans,” but the board of education will need to consider whether they believe the garage would be in the best interest of the district in the future.

“It’s ultimately something I think the board would need to talk about, think about and decide on if we really want to go ahead with that,” he said. “We’ll have some opportunities to discuss that with ORDA. It’s up to the board to decide whether those kinds of things are for the best interest of the school district.”

ORDA CEO Michael Pratt confirmed in an email Wednesday that the authority is conducting exploratory work in the school’s upper lot.

“We are in the preliminary phases of conceptual discussions,” Pratt said. “To determine viability and magnitude, we have bored holes for engineering evaluations.”

It’s unclear when work began at the school’s parking lot, and how long that work is expected to last. An ORDA spokesman did not answer those questions last week or this week.

Altogether, ORDA has 30 new projects in the pipeline and $78 million in new project funding from the state this year, according to the authority’s annual report. ORDA also received $60 million in capital funding last year, plus $2.5 million from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The year prior, the state approved $20 million in capital funding for ORDA venues.

A large portion of ORDA’s capital funding has been earmarked for the construction of a new base lodge at Mount Van Hoevenberg, which Pratt estimated could cost upward of $32 million.

Other work slated at Mount Van Hoevenberg includes the construction of a new cross-country ski stadium and two “mountain coasters,” one for recreation and another for transportation; the addition of more cross-country ski trails and updated trailheads — relocated away from state Route 73 — that would connect to Cascade, Porter and Pitchoff mountains; and the incorporation of a new 8-million gallon snowmaking reservoir with storage.

Improvements at the Olympic Sports Complex there are expected to cost up to $60 million, total.

Pratt told the Enterprise in February that the Olympic Center itself was in desperate need of renovation. The possibility of a parking garage wasn’t discussed at the time.

Pratt said the ultimate goal was to relocate the authority’s offices out of the Olympic Center to free up more space for athletes and the general public. ORDA also wants to modify the hockey arenas so they can easily change size, giving them the ability to host figure skating, hockey and short-track speedskating. The speedskating oval, which lies on land owned by both the town of North Elba and the Lake Placid Central School District, may also undergo some improvements.

The ORDA Board of Directors are set to have their regular meeting Monday at the Olympic Center. One of the agenda items, if approved, would authorize Pratt to sign a contract for the Olympic Center design construction project.