North Country development council unveils 11 priority projects
REDC seeks $6 million for Placid hotel, with another $1 million for Play ADK
The North Country Regional Economic Development Council has unveiled 11 priority projects its members hope will garner state funding in the next round of the REDC Awards this November.
They include multi-million-dollar asks for the rebuild of a hotel in Lake Placid and for the construction of a mixed-use commercial and residential housing property in Canton.
They also include smaller funding requests that would help fund the creation of a new children’s museum in Saranac Lake — a project that has also received funding through the village’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative award — as well as the purchase, rehabilitation or redevelopment of manufacturing facilities, ski cabins, a pharmaceutical site, small business incubator and childcare center. The NCREDC is also asking the state to contribute money toward a cooperative’s purchase of Ward Lumber in Jay.
The REDC awards are an annual competition where 10 regions around the state — each represented by a council made up of local business executives, nonprofit leadership, elected officials and education professionals — compete for a pot of grants, subsidies and tax incentives from the state.
Since 2011, when the REDC awards were created, the state has doled out more than $6.1 billion to more than 7,300 projects. Of those, more than 560 were located in the North Country region, which encompasses Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Nearly 15% of those projects, or 81 of them, received direct state investment totaling more than $91.8 million, according to the NCREDC’s progress report.
This year the REDC councils will compete for up to $150 million each in capital funds and $75 million in tax credits for their districts.
In its latest progress report, the NCREDC highlighted 11 priority projects that the council is recommending for more than $13 million in state grant funding. Three each are in Jefferson and Lewis counties, two in Essex County and one each in St. Lawrence, Franklin and Clinton counties.
This year, the state has asked each REDC council to square its proposed projects with a focus on child care, placemaking, environmental justice and workforce development.
The NCREDC received 185 consolidated funding applications this year, according to co-chair Jim McKenna. Scoring committees sifted through applications earlier this year and ranked them based in large part on potential job creation.
The applications were then forwarded to the full council for endorsement.
The NCREDC has been restructured this year, McKenna said. The goal moving forward will be to attract more applications that support a regional identity.
“Our goal as we move forward now is to develop a regional identity to make us more competitive,” he said. “Our success is judged by the projects that come to us.”
Tri-Lakes, Essex Co. projects
The NCREDC’s top ask so far this cycle is a $6 million state funding recommendation for a private hotel rebuild in Lake Placid.
If the North Elba-Lake Placid Joint Review Board approves the project, the existing Quality Inn hotel on the commercial stretch at Saranac Avenue would be demolished. A new L-shaped structure under the Hilton Tru-Homewood Suites banner would be built on that same footprint, but have more than double the number of rooms.
Of those rooms, 90 are expected to be Home2 extended-stay suites, and 93 would be Tru by Hilton rooms, which are “mid-priced” and “marketed to younger tech-savvy and design-minded travelers on a budget,” according to the NCREDC progress report.
Together with private investment, the hotel rebuild is expected to cost upward of $30 million. The NCREDC expects that investment, paired with the proposed $6 million from the state, to generate 51 new jobs, retain another 20 jobs and create 290 construction jobs.
The NCREDC is also recommending more than $1 million in funding for the construction of the Play ADK children’s museum in Saranac Lake.
This project — which would include the renovation of a former Branch and Callanan warehouse across from the historic, vacant train station — was also chosen to receive $993,055 through Saranac Lake’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award in July. Altogether, the project is projected to cost more than $5.7 million, create 10 permanent jobs and 65 construction jobs.
And though no new jobs would be created, the NCREDC believes that 46 jobs would be retained if the state gives the Ward Lumber Worker Cooperative $300,000 toward the purchase of Ward Lumber Inc., a building supply company based in Jay.
The company’s employees want to purchase the corporation, “thereby avoiding liquidation and closure of a longtime community establishment,” according to the progress report.
Projects around the region
The NCREDC has also thrown its support behind a proposed combination commercial-residential housing complex in Canton.
SUNY Canton, Laker Development and DEW Ventures are collaborating on this project. The plan: Demolish the existing Midtown Plaza, and replace it with a new three-story building. The first floor would include a 17,500 square-foot “Entrepreneurship Center” and 12,500 square feet of commercial space. The second and third floors would have 45 residential units, according to the progress report.
The developers also plan to improve the surrounding parking lots and grounds on the Main Street corridor.
Other projects unveiled as part of the NCREDC’s progress report include a $1.2 million funding recommendation for the purchase and renovation of a new EX STAK manufacturing facility in Watertown; $700,000 for the renovation of buildings at the former Pfizer pharmaceutical site in Rouses Point; $350,242 toward building renovations to accommodate a small business incubator in Lowville; $175,000 toward the construction of five year-round ski cabins in Osceola; $500,000 toward the installation of utilities at the Thousand Islands Agriculture Park in Watertown; $67,000 toward the construction of two new classrooms and staff facilities at the Hand in Hand Early Childhood Center in Lowville; and $23,900 toward the installation of a press brake at a boat manufacturing facility in Cape Vincent.