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ORDA office building in Lake Placid approved

Concept art of new ORDA office building (Provided image — Olympic Regional Development Authority)

LAKE PLACID — The Adirondack Park Agency board approved a permit for construction of a new state Olympic Regional Development Authority office building in Lake Placid last week, where ORDA plans to move 71 employees currently working in the Olympic Center.

The project site is at the former Adirondack Health Lake Placid Hospital, near the Olympic Training Center.

ORDA President and CEO Mike Pratt said ORDA has long wanted to move these offices to a separate location to free up more space for customers, restaurants and locker rooms at the Olympic Center. He said the major renovations going on at the center right now in preparation for the World University Games that Lake Placid is hosting in 2023 provided a good opportunity to do that.

The new office building to house ORDA’s administration, finance, human resources, IT, marketing, events, legal, and environment planning and construction departments is projected to cost $13 million which has already been appropriated by the state.

ORDA brought in an estimated $273 million in economic impact last year, Pratt said, a 75% increase over three years prior, so he believes it gives the region a good return on taxpayers’ investment.

The project needed a variance because its height would exceed the 40-foot limit within the Adirondack Park. The building would be 44 feet, 10 inches tall, including raised skylights on the roof.

Pratt said the building could have had a larger footprint and a shorter height but that there are pros and cons to both designs, and engineers thought this would be most effective. The building will have a 9,620-square foot footprint.

The project site is in the hamlet of Lake Placid but because it would involve a new land use, APA has jurisdiction over the project.

APA staff member Ariel Lynch presented the project to the board and said it gave the staff no environmental impact concerns. She recommended the board approve the project with conditions — mostly requirements that the construction follow the plans proposed in terms of color, lighting and minimizing the environmental impact.

The APA board approved Olympic Center improvements last year.

Board questions

ORDA plans to demolish the hospital building and build the new administrative building slightly to the north.

APA board member Mark Hall asked why it is not building within the old hospital’s footprint. Lynch explained that ORDA is trying to have it completed before the 2023 World University Games. To build on the existing footprint construction ORDA would have to wait a few extra months for complete demolition of the hospital building.

Pratt said demolition is expected to start in a few weeks and construction of the new building a few weeks after that.

The project involves clearing a 1.12-acre wooded area. APA board member John Ernst asked why they have to do that. Lynch explained that the building footprint overlaps a bit of that vegetation and most would be cut to make room for a stormwater pond.

There were two public comment letters from neighbors on Newman Road with concerns about stormwater and groundwater management, and if the project would affect the residential character of the area.

Board members said with the use of new stormwater technologies the project may result in an improvement in water management there, as there currently is no water management plan.

Lynch said a vegetative buffer will separate the building from houses and that the building should only be visible from Church Street, where the former hospital is already visible.

This building would be taller than the existing former hospital.

The closest wetland is valued at a 3 — the least restrictive of three possible valuations — and it is more than 65 feet from the project.

The building would include 88 parking spots, with one driveway entering from Old Military Road and another from Church Street. Lynch said there will be an estimated 52 vehicles going in and out at the peak in mornings.

APA board members Zoe Smith and Dan Wilt asked about the color of wood panels on the front of the building, pointing out that most projects they look at have a “natural color palate” with dark browns and greens being the standard, and that the light-colored wood did not match that aesthetic.

During the meeting, Lynch got a text from an architect from JMC Architects who said the final wall would be brown to terracotta in color.

They said the artist’s rendering of the building makes it look more yellow that it will be.

The Regulatory Programs Committee — Dan Wilt, John Ernst, Ken Lynch and Matt Hall — all voted to approve the permit.

Art Lussi recused himself because he also sits on the ORDA board.

The full APA board voted to approve the permit unanimously.

Lynch said the DEC determined it will not need to investigate the project’s environmental impact. She said the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid are not reviewing the project any further. She also said the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has given the project a green light.

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