Lake Placid housing developments move forward
LAKE PLACID — It’s construction season again in Lake Placid, and not just on Main Street. Three housing developments — Fawn Valley, MacKenzie Outlook and the Peaks at Lake Placid — are in the works, and construction is restarting and progressing at two of those developments.
Peaks at Lake Placid
Construction plans, timelines and project funding have been shifting for some time at the Peaks development on Barn Road. The proposed 355-unit housing complex, at the former W. Alton Jones Cell Science Center, was originally slated for construction starting last May, with completion expected within two years.
Crews cleared the lot last fall and started installing some underground infrastructure, though Peaks developer Joe Barile hasn’t applied for any additional building permits, according to Code Enforcement Officer Mike Orticelle.
When reached by phone for comment on the development Tuesday morning, Barile asked that press questions be sent to him in a message. Barile did not respond to the questions by press time Wednesday.
Orticelle said Monday that Barile hadn’t applied for permits to lay the foundations for any new buildings. Orticelle heard from a contractor working at the Peaks that the project was on hold, but Orticelle didn’t know why.
The project was scaled back last year due to funding and construction material supply chain issues, and North Elba town Supervisor Derek Doty said last month that Barile had plans to pare down the project further. Doty believed Barile decided to drop 55 units from the project plan, which he thought made up an entire apartment building in the complex, to make it easier to redraw lot lines there. Town Councilor Emily Kilburn Politi said in February that she thought Barile was applying for a sales tax exemption for the Peaks project through the Essex County Industrial Development Agency.
Barile has encountered some hurdles with funding the Peaks. He was denied a loan he initially applied for through Green Bank, a state-sponsored bank aimed at financing green energy projects, which would have fully funded the project. He ended up getting partial funding through Evans Bank in Buffalo and the local Champlain National Bank, which caused Barile to lay the project out in “phases” as he anticipated additional funding.
The first phase of 101 units was expected to be finished by the 2023 FISU games next January and host around 620 athletes, but Barile told Adirondack North Country Sports Council Executive Director Ashley Walden earlier this year that he couldn’t guarantee that any of the units would be done by the games.
Orticelle said Monday that Barile isn’t in danger of losing the project permit permissions he got from the Lake Placid-North Elba Review Board in March 2021. Someone doesn’t need to reapply for review board approval if they complete their project within three years or make substantial progress on their project during that time, according to Orticelle, and he believes Barile has done “substantial work” at the Peaks.
He said construction crews have cleared a lot of the property and started gutting the old Cell Science Center, which is expected to be renovated and turned into townhomes, but no new construction can happen without permits for the work.
Construction is starting up again at Fawn Valley this week after a winter break, according to Homestead Development Corporation President Steve Sama. HDC is a local nonprofit responsible for developing Fawn Valley, located on Wesvalley Road, which will provide 22 new housing units for sale: six single-family, two-bedroom Cape Cod-style houses and 16 two-bedroom townhomes located within four buildings.
Construction workers plan to start excavating the land to replace 320 feet of a 100-year-old sewer line this week. The property’s water main is already in, and a rough road to the property has been made. Sama said they’ll start putting in gravel and asphalt soon, and workers plan to start excavating foundations in June for the six houses that will arrive on site this fall. Each home and townhome building is modular and arrives mostly prebuilt. The townhomes are expected to arrive next summer.
Six applications have already been approved for the houses, and Sama said the houses are going to local, essential workers — law enforcement, teachers, healthcare workers — “exactly the people that we wanted to serve.”
HDC received its second Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund grant of $125,000 for Fawn Valley last month. The town of North Elba awarded the HDC its first $125,000 grant this past November. Sama said Monday that the HDC has gotten another $15,000 from the Adirondack Foundation and $25,000 from the Cloudsplitter Foundation. He said that would largely front the $400,000 bill for the first half of the project. He expects that cashflow for the rest of the project will improve as the first six houses are sold.
There have been a couple of updates to the project since it was initially announced. The houses were originally expected to be sold around $200,000, but Sama said they’ll end up being closer to $220,000. Sama said that HDC is selling the units at cost.
Another change is that the townhomes were originally planned to be condominiums. Sama said the estimated cost for each unit — $180,000 — will remain the same. The main difference is that the townhome buildings will each have four two-story units that sit side-by-side, while the two-story condo buildings would have had four one-story units that sat one on top of another. Sama said the new design won’t force people to live on top of each other, and each townhome will have its own basement instead of the common basement originally planned for the condos.
HDC hasn’t approved applicants for the condos yet since construction on those is still a year away, Sama said.
All the units at Fawn Valley will be deed-restricted so that they can’t be used as short-term vacation rentals or rented to long-term tenants. Sama also said HDC will be putting a cap on how much the homes can be re-sold for, though he didn’t specify the details of that cap on Monday. He said HDC wants to ensure that the homes will remain affordable in perpetuity.
HDC is hosting a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the American Legion Post 326 in Lake Placid on May 14 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to benefit the corporation.
While construction at the Peaks and Fawn Valley were put on pause for the winter, work has continued at the MacKenzie Outlook development on Wesvalley Road.
“We never stopped, and everything’s on schedule,” developer Larry Regan said Monday.
The roof went up at MacKenzie before winter set in, which allowed crews to work through the snow. Construction at MacKenzie Outlook is expected to wrap up in late August or early September, according to Regan, and he said the development is first expected to house staff for the 2023 World University Games in January before it’s turned over to long-term renters.
Of the three major housing developments going up in Lake Placid right now, MacKenzie is the only one with “affordable” units intended to house the local workforce. A housing needs assessment study released in 2020 showed that with a target of 50% of the local workforce living within the community, North Elba and Lake Placid have a need for roughly 1,534 “workforce and affordable level” housing units. Most of that assessed need, 1,013 units, is for people who make less than $35,150 per year. In the study, affordable rent for that income range is defined as less than $879 per month for an apartment and under $123,000 for a house.
Some units at MacKenzie Outlook will be priced for that demographic. Mackenzie Outlook will have 40 one-bedroom apartments and 20 two-bedroom apartments; the one-bedroom apartments will rent from $528 to $900 a month, plus an $87 utility allowance, and the two-bedroom apartments will rent from $633 to $1,045, plus a $108 utility allowance.
Regan said he plans to start preleasing the apartments to long-term renters sometime this fall, giving a move-in date of Feb. 1, 2023.