Two local housing projects get state boost

From left, Wayne Zukin, Scott Zukin and Brian Draper walk in front of the administrative building at the Trudeau Sanatorium in October 2021. These developers got a $1.3 million grant from the state on Tuesday to convert this building into 27 market-rate apartments with a coffee shop. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

Redevelopment projects in both Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake got million-dollar grant boosts from the state through the first round of Restore New York grant awards announced Tuesday, and both projects involve creating a total of nearly 100 new housing units.

The sites of the former Oval Wood Dish factory on Demars Boulevard in Tupper Lake, and of the former Trudeau Sanatorium on Park Street in Saranac Lake, both have buildings that have long sat vacant. Both once housed the industries that helped support these respective towns — logging and tuberculosis treatment and research.

Both redevelopments are expected to include the construction of both apartments and commercial space.

Oval Lofts

Mike Dunyk, left, and Joe Gehm bought the former Oval Wood Dish factory in 2021 through their company Lahinch Group to convert it into a housing and business complex. On Tuesday they got a $1.35 million grant from the state to convert the property behind this building into 71 market-rate apartments and 2,500 square feet of commercial space. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

The Oval Lofts Redevelopment project in Tupper Lake was awarded $1.35 million through the state.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” said Joe Gehm, one of the developers through Lahinch Group, which is behind the redevelopment. “Given the recent momentum off the (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) announcements for both the main OWD project and the Oval Lofts, this is going to get us across the finish line.”

The Oval Wood Dish Site, the main location, got $1.95 million through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative last month as part of a broader $10 million DRI grant awarded to Tupper Lake. The Oval Lofts project was also awarded $2.5 million through the DRI.

Lahinch Group bought the former Oval Wood Dish factory on Demars Boulevard in 2021 with plans for apartments and commercial space. After that, they bought the land and buildings behind the factory which are currently used by Fletcher and Son Recycling and Energy. This is where the Oval Lofts project is. Oval Lofts involves redeveloping the former lumber mill buildings and junkyard into 71 market rate units and 2,500 sqare feet of commercial space. These apartments would come with parking, a fitness center, community space, garden and grills for residents.

Gehm said the village’s application was for $2 million but $1.35 million through Restore New York is a big deal for them.

The Oval Lofts project is estimated at costing $20 million.

The buildings are in rough shape. Building costs are rising. And Gehm said interest rates rising have made financing these types of projects tough. They’re taking out significant construction loans, and without the backing of the state, he said it wouldn’t happen.

“Without the help of New York state ESD, it would make it near impossible,” he said.

Gehm said groundbreaking is still a ways off. He’s working on securing more funding and affordable housing tax credits from the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. This OHCR funding is the “linchpin” of the project, he said.

If the project gets approved, which he hopes will happen in the next three or four months, he said the OWD property redevelopment will start first, but he hopes the two can run in “parallel,” with construction starting in the summer. Drawings for the Oval Lofts project still need to be finished.

He said Gehm estimated that both could be completed by end of 2024.

The main OWD site was initially estimated to cost $35 million, but that has risen around 15%, Gehm said, because of rising construction costs. There are 80 affordable workforce housing units planned at this site, according to Gehm, as well as a co-working space and a new production facility for Raquette River Brewery.

Trudeau Village

The Trudeau Village Redevelopment Project, at the 65-acre former American Management Association property, also known as the former Trudeau Sanatorium, got $1.3 million through Restore New York.

One of the developers, Wayne Zukin, said this grant will allow them to “jump-start” work on the property’s bigger buildings — namely the large, prominent administration building, which he called the “centerpiece” of the project. That currently vacant building, will be turned into 27 market-rate apartments — studio units and 1- and 2-bedroom units — as well as a coffee shop.

Zukin said that pre-pandemic, the developers had thought of turning this building into a resort of some sort, but they listened to the community and heard the need for housing, so they wanted to serve the community.

Saranac Lake Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski helped submit the application, as the village was the project’s municipal sponsor. She said the village wanted to sponsor this project because it aligns with the village’s housing goals.

Work on this building is estimated to cost $7 million, Zukin said. They will seek more grants, he said. Zukin is working on the property with his business partner Brian Draper, brother Scott Zukin and wife Sue Smith.

“The Restore New York grant is perfect for this,” Zukin said. “It’s focused on activating otherwise vacant property.”

The administration building had been used as AMA offices over the years but portions have been vacant for decades, Zukin said. Zukin said the project has preliminary approval from the village, and he hopes they can start construction in the spring. Optimistically, he estimated 18 months of work with the apartments hitting the market in 2024.

“We’re just really thrilled,” Zukin said. “Thankful to the governor and the state. We’re excited to get started.”

Konkoski said another round of Restore New York funding is open now, and the village will consider becoming a project sponsor for Pendragon Theatre’s proposed relocation at an upcoming board meeting.


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