Construction is a welcome sight

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is seen here at Berkeley Green in Saranac Lake in July 2019, unveiling 10 projects that will divide $9.7 million through the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

Berkeley Green was filled to capacity on July 25, 2019, the day that then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul landed in Saranac Lake to announce which proposals would be funded as part of this village’s $9.7 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.

We remember that day well. The investments announced seemed like they would touch so many parts of this community, paving the way for a new whitewater park, the creation of a children’s museum, the preservation of the historic Trudeau home, a slew of park and streetscape updates and much more. At one point during the ceremony, then-chair of the Pendragon Theatre’s board, Holly Wolff, stood up out of excitement as she heard that the theatre would get $2.5 million in state grants toward relocating the theatre downtown.

So much has changed since then. Hochul is now governor. Saranac Lake has a new mayor, and some of the folks who put together the village’s DRI application are no longer working within the village government. Play ADK and Historic Saranac Lake have come a long way in their respective fundraising goals, and work at HSL’s Trudeau home has begun. At the Enterprise, the reporter who covered Hochul’s announcement at Berkeley Green is now the managing editor. We’ve gone through an entire pandemic, saw nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, went through yet another contentious presidential election, watched as an angry crowd sought to halt Congress’ counting of electoral college votes at our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, and we’re in the midst of a crippling period of inflation. Locally, we saw large-scale upgrades to sports venues and the subsequent arrival of the World University Games; we saw construction of the rail-trail finally kick off after many years of debate. We’ve seen a slate of Saranac Lake mainstay businesses change ownership, close or burn down.

Suffice to say that it feels as if that July afternoon in 2019 was a lifetime ago. Such is the pace of progress for many state-funded projects — especially DRI projects, it seems. The city of Plattsburgh, for example, was awarded its DRI in 2016 — all of its projects still haven’t been completed.

There are reasons why DRI projects are still underway or just starting up in Saranac Lake, some of which were alluded to above. (Again, we went through an entire pandemic.) The village will also still need to contend with delayed material deliveries and supply chain issues as it moves forward.

Construction on multiple DRI projects will happen this year, according to the village. We’re already seeing construction kick off around town. Some projects are even nearing completion.

We, of course, never look forward to navigating through construction zones while we try to live our daily lives. And there are plenty of valid criticisms of the DRI program and process. We think state taxpayer money should not go to large-scale corporations who can reasonably complete projects on its own with private investment, the state needs to be more judicious in how it invests taxpayer money, and the process needs to be more transparent overall. We also think these projects won’t do much to solve some of the larger issues in the village, like the affordable housing shortage. But we’re looking forward to seeing these projects in Saranac Lake come to fruition. Saranac Lake has the opportunity here to complete projects that will improve the quality of life for residents, little by little, and that’s something to be happy about.


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