Tupper names 17 top DRI projects

Downtown Tupper Lake is seen from the top of the Tupper Arts building in May 2021. Several of the proposed project locations for the village’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant can be seen from here, including the Palace Theater, which Tupper Arts is in the works to purchase; 87 and 70 Park Street, where apartments, vacation rentals and retail space are planned; and 47 Park Street, where retail space is being renovated and apartments are planned on the second floor. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — There are 17 projects up for a piece of the $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative grants the Tupper Lake village was awarded last year.

Now, all the applicants have to do is wait several months for the state to get back with its final selections of projects it will fund.

These 17 projects were selected in a unanimous vote by the village’s DRI Local Planning Committee in its last meeting in June.

The LPC got 33 project applicants. LPC Co-Chair and Tupper Lake Village Mayor Paul Maroun said the group kept as many as they could, but around half had to be removed.

He said some were deemed not valid because they were not within the DRI boundary, did not meet the minimum cost threshold for a project or needed and eliminated immediately. Others were eliminated because they didn’t meet the DRI requirement that a project be “transformational.”

This was the hard part, Maroun said. “Transformational” can be sort of subjective, he said, and everyone thinks their project is transformational.

The 14-member LPC determined if a project was transformational or not.

For projects that were too small, the village is requesting the state approve $600,000 to be put into a revolving grant and loan program called the “Energize Uptown Fund.” This fund would be created through the $10 million DRI and is pending state approval.

Maroun said this is a way to fund the smaller projects that did not meet the DRI’s minimum cost threshold. It would be a fund for matching grants, intended for interior/exterior building improvements in the Uptown district, as well as business assistance.

In all, these 17 projects are seeking $15 million in grants from the DRI. The projects carry a total cost of $80.5 million, so they are asking for the DRI to fund 19% of their total project costs.

Now this list goes to the MJ Engineering consulting firm. MJ Engineering is getting paid $300,000 out of the total $10 million DRI for its consulting services. The firm will review the projects, conduct research on how feasible they are with its engineers and send its recommendations to the state. The state will make the final decision on which projects get funded.

They can’t all be funded. The DRI is for $10 million, and some of that goes toward running the program itself. Maroun said applicants may be asked to reduce the financial request. Others may not be selected at all.

But Maroun said for projects not chosen for funding, just being on the list opens them up to other grants, and he promised the village can help people apply for grants.

There is only one public project on the list. The others are all private or nonprofit ventures.

Developers will spend the money and get reimbursed for their costs.

The timeline on when these recommendations will be sent to the state and when the state will make its final decisions is currently very unclear. Maroun said the state’s decisions could be announced as early as in the fall, but any number of things could make it take longer.

Maroun described the selection process as “long, rapid and sometimes tedious.”

LPC Co-Chair and Regional Office Of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna said the committee did a “thorough” job. McKenna sat on the Saranac Lake DRI committee when it won the award in 2018, and said he was impressed with Tupper Lake’s work.

He said private sector investment in Tupper Lake’s projects is very high in his opinion, which is good, he added.

Maroun said many of the projects are “shovel ready.”


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