TUPPER LAKE – Tupper Arts was filled with tears and cheers on Friday as a packed Tupper Lakers house learned their village had received $ 10 million as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative – a sum that they hope to transform Tupper Lake forever.
Several people at the award announcement event said getting the grant was the easiest part. From now on, a committee will be formed to accept project proposals. The window to apply is always open. Consultants from the state will come, determine who gets a share of the pot, and the final list will be sent to the state for approval. This process will likely take several years.
Money typically begins to flow within two years of award.
The village began its nomination process this summer, but village mayor Paul Maroun said the idea had been in his mind since the state launched DRI in 2016. Tupper Lake was not ready. at the time, but he said the private sector, as well as town and village councils, have worked hard to open businesses, create organizations, invest in parks and prove to the state that it is ready to take that next step.
Tupper Lake Community Development Director Melissa McManus said Tupper Lake had never applied for a DRI grant before and won it on the first try. Village administrator Ron LaScala said the village did not want to apply for the grant unless he knew he might be a candidate.
The village was banking on its recent progress on Park Street, the proposed redevelopment of the old wooden oval tableware factory and its city park to earn the award, McManus said.
Many of the projects proposed by the village are “Ready to go”, said Maroun, a rarity in the DRI contest, which helped the village gain the advantage.
McManus said there were a lot of people who showed up to apply. She said some of the companies seeking DRI funding are Tupper Arts, OWD developers, Amado Restaurant and Cafe, and several new hotels on offer.
She also said the village was looking to invest some of the money in improving the streetscape of Boulevard Demars, keeping the village’s Energize Uptown fund, continuing with municipal park improvements and helping new businesses. to open.
The target area for these funds begins in the Park Street commercial district, crosses the waterfront municipal park and ends further on on Demars Boulevard, where the former Oval Wood Dish factory is located.
LaScala said Tupper Lake has room to build. If economic development was a board game, he said communities like Saranac Lake and Lake Placid are more advanced in terms of tourism and business, but said Tupper Lake is on the way.
He said he hopes to speak to people who have gone the DRI route before – like Saranac Lake and Plattsburgh – to refine the Tupper Lake process.
“The growth is great” he said. “Smart growth is the best. “
The village contracted with Elan Planning & Design, an architecture, planning and design firm in Saratoga Springs, to prepare for DRI’s application.
The state, through its DRI program, annually awards $ 10 million in grants to various municipalities across the state.
The DRI application process is competitive, with many cities and towns asking for a multi-million dollar slice of the pie each year.
This year, the state has doubled its funding for the DRI program, so each of the state’s 10 regions has the option of receiving up to $ 20 million, instead of the usual $ 10 million. Massena also received $ 10 million through DRI this week.
There has not been a 2020 cycle of DRI due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The village of Saranac Lake received the DRI award in 2018. The process of investing money in projects is underway. Plattsburgh, Watertown and Potsdam have also won DRI awards. Lake Placid has considered applying in the past.
Standing outside the arts center after the award was announced on Friday, McManus saw former village mayor Mickey Desmarais pass by. Beckoning him, she shouted at him as he leaned out of his truck window: “Mickey, we just won $ 10 million!
It was a moving day for her. This grant is the culmination of years of work that she directs and observes. Maroun expressed his gratitude to him in the announcement.
A DRI process like this is the reason he created the community development position and hired McManus in 2015, he said.
McManus said she cried when she heard Maroun speak to the crowd about her job.
“I feel like all I’ve done is connect the dots” she said, looking at the shops up and down Park Street. A buzz has come to a head, she said.
“It’s an angel sent to Tupper Lake,” LaScala said.
Maroun had a lot of people to thank – village code official Pete Edwards, former State Senator Betty Little, State Senator Dan Stec, State Assembly Member Billy Jones and Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Development Barbara Rice, Village Council and Village Clerk Mary Casagrain.
Stec said these grants are one of “Brighter spots” in the state budget for him.
Jones was happy that this was the second DRI grant that a village in Franklin County is receiving.
“I am delighted to be here today” he said.
Franklin County Industrial Development Agency CEO Jeremy Evans said the trust, care, trust and state interest he’s showing with this grant are worth even more than the check of $ 10 million itself.
“I think it shows that people trust Franklin County”, Evans said. “I’m not sure it’s something everyone has always felt.”
Sally Strasser, who owns the State Theater next to Tupper Arts, said she plans to try and get some of the DRI funds to improve the theater. Tupper Arts Council president Susan Delehanty said the arts group is considering buying the State Theater to expand its footprint and host shows and film festivals there. She said Tupper Arts is in the middle of a fundraising campaign to renovate its Park Street building.
Strasser said people don’t always expect good things in Tupper Lake, but it proves that good things are happening.
Mike Dunyk and Joe Gehm of Syracuse-based group Lahinch, which purchased the old Oval Wood Dish factory this spring, were at the DRI announcement event. Gehm said they hope to use DRI funds to develop the 25 acres of land behind the plant with a hotel and possibly more housing. Their project recently received a $ 2.5 million boost from Empire State Development.
Gehm said Maroun and McManus were the ones who sold them to build in Tupper Lake.
Requests by the Tupper Lake Business Group that the town and village invest in recreational trails, including mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails, are not eligible for these DRI funds as they are in the area. outside of the city center.
At the end of the award announcement, those in attendance sampled dishes from Tupper Lake: donuts from Washboard Donuts, beer from Raquette River Brewing and Stewart’s coffee.