Pendragon, OWD get state grants

Eloise Zobel as Moustache Agnes, local sheriff, pokes around stage while rehearsing Pendragon Junior’s “Alias Smedley Pewtree, Or The Villain of Glitter Gulch” in March 2022. In the back, Mason Estling, the assayer, hides behind his hands in fear, his favorite part of the play. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

The state is giving Pendragon Theatre $2 million toward building a new theater space on Woodruff Street in Saranac Lake and $1.6 million to the developers of the Oval Wood Dish Factory in Tupper Lake to renovate that abandoned building into a housing and commercial space, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday.

These additional grant awards through the Restore New York Communities Initiative are administered by Empire State Development.


Pendragon Managing Director Michael Aguirre said this money brings the project into the home stretch with the finish line in sight. He said it puts them 75% of the way to meeting their $8.3 million goal for construction to begin. It currently has $6.5 million of that raised.

The theater is currently in a space on Brandy Brook Avenue, outside the main downtown area. The new space is a vacant building on the corner of Church and Woodruff streets, a more central location.

Right now, Aguirre said they are finalizing designs with architects. He said this grant gives them “extra momentum.”

He said they plan to have these documents ready by the end of fall, go out to bid for contractors in the winter and break ground in the spring of 2024. He said they hope to have the doors to the new theater open by the start of the 2026 season.

“That’s if everything goes to plan,” he said.

The project has had its share of “ups and downs,” he said. It has been delayed by world events like the coronavirus pandemic. But he said this marks the largest contribution since the pandemic started.

“Two million dollars is some serious, serious money and it shows a rejuvenated faith in the project,” he said.

This project was initially kicked off with a $2.5 million share of the nearly $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant the village got in 2018. The theater was the largest private recipient of the total grant.

Aguirre said Pendragon has raised 72% of its budget for the project and is still seeking around $2.5 million more.

Aguirre said the new theater space will be renovated inside and out, with a front porch, green space sitting area and a all-purpose room for rehearsals, meetings, community events and musicians.

“It’s not just building a space for our shows,” Aguirre said. “We want community members and organizations to be able to use this space as much as we do.”

He said the whole Woodruff Street area will be transformed.

Aguirre said this should turn a night at the theater from a 90-minute experience at a show into an entire evening, with food, drink and other businesses within a short walking distance.

The fixed seating capacity at the new theater will be at 100, around what the current theater holds, Aguirre said, with the ability to add around 20 to 40 seats for larger events.


Oval Wood Dish factory on Demars Boulevard got $1.6 million from the state to redevelop 126,000 square feet of vacant space in nine buildings as workforce housing, co-working and commercial space.

But the real “green light” for the project came two weeks ago when the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal approved the project for a 9% affordable housing tax credit. Joe Gehm, one of the developers through Lahinch Group, said these tax credits were the “linchpin” in the project he had been waiting on.

With that approval, the project is officially moving forward and Gehm said they are planning to get shovels in the ground in late fall. The majority of the construction will be on the inside, he said, but they want to get started before the snow flies.

Gehm said they expect construction to last 14 to 16 months. He said they can move fast because their construction team is “well-versed in historic redevelopment.”

“Our team, we’ve been ready for a while. So we’re now eager to get things rolling,” Gehm said.

This past December, Gehm said with rising interest rates and increased construction costs pushing the total cost closer to $40 million, Lahinch Group was taking out significant construction loans. Without the backing of the state, he said it wouldn’t happen.

“We’re very excited to have New York state and the governor’s support to tackle the workforce housing crisis,” Gehm said. “This has been a long time coming.”

The OWD project received $1.35 million in an earlier round of Restore New York grant awards last year. The project got $1.95 million through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative last year as part of a broader $10 million DRI grant awarded to Tupper Lake.

It also received $2.5 million in Regional Economic Development Council awards and $500,000 from the Northern Border Regional Commission in 2021.

There are 80 affordable workforce housing units planned at this site, as well as a co-working space and a new production facility for Raquette River Brewery.

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. They are planning an additional development there called Oval Lofts. Oval Lofts involves redeveloping the former lumber mill buildings and junkyard into 71 market rate units and 2,500 square feet of commercial space.

This secondary Oval Lofts project was also awarded $2.5 million through Tupper Lake’s $10 million DRI award and is estimated at costing an additional $20 million.


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