By Paul Post
Seasonal workforce housing, a Farmer’s Market pavilion, Shepard Park fishing pier and south Canada Street improvements highlight the projects proposed for Lake George with a new $10 million state grant.
A committee of public and private officials including four professional planners spent 16 months preparing an application for the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative program.
“The $10 million will help leverage another $20 million to $30 million in public and private investment,” said Committee Chair Dan Barusch, town of Lake George director of planning and zoning. “The town and village are going to be chipping in dollars and business owners will match any money they get for various projects.”
“The indirect economic impact is things like job creation, construction and increased sales tax revenue,” he said.
Most of 2024 will be spent fine tuning priority projects and considering additional ideas that others may have. An open call for proposals will be issued soon.
A separate planning committee, comprised of local and state officials from various state agencies, will decide the merits of each project before money is forthcoming, with work expected to begin in 2025.
“They try to pick the best projects in terms of bang for the buck, how real are they and how close are they to being shovel-ready,” Barusch said. “They’ll pick something with design plans and someone who has money in hand versus an idea. It will probably take us about a full year to go through that entire process and get everything lined up. Once they come back and tell us, ‘Here’s what we’re going to spend the $10 million on’, that’s when we hit the ground running, starting to move on all those projects.”
Four proposed “anchor” projects are those deemed to fill the biggest need and provide the most benefit. Two are in the village and two are in the town, just outside downtown.
Affordable housing for seasonal workers is high on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s list.
The Lake George tourism and hospitality industry relies heavily on such people, quite often drawing from foreign countries in summer. But it’s hard to attract workers without adequate places for them to live,” she said.
Local officials are in discussions with International Residence Hall, a subsidiary of Wisconsin-based Holtz Companies to build such facilities.
South Canada Street is a second high-priority project. Plans call for improving sidewalks and installing street lights — there currently aren’t any — from the corner of Route 9 and Beach Road south to the town-village line. About 15 years ago, a $10 million Gateway Project created a boulevard-type entrance to Lake George from Northway Exit 21. New improvements would fill a gap from there to Beach Road, providing greater pedestrian connectivity to the village.
A third project, advanced by Mayor Raymond Perry, would create a mini-park within Shepard Park. A small part of the park’s beach, in front of the bathhouse, is closed to swimming because of a sharp drop-off into deep water, deemed unsafe for children.
Plans call for extending a nearby L-shaped pedestrian pier a bit farther north and having it loop back to shore, creating a wheelchair-accessible facility, from which the public could also fish. The area on land would be raised and an underground storm water collection system installed to keep roof runoff, road salt and pollutants from entering the lake. Picnic tables and benches would be placed above for a relaxing, park-like setting.
“A seawall would separate this area from the main beach,” Perry said. “To me that’s the most valuable real estate, right on the waterfront in the center of the village. Why not make it a park and address the storm water issue we have there?”
A fourth “anchor” project would move Lake George Farmer’s Market from Canada Street to a currently vacant lot on Route 9 between Boats By George (formerly The Forum ice rink) and Lake George Chamber of Commerce headquarters.
The property is owned by the Macchio family.
The town would buy or lease the site and create a park called Macchio Square including construction of a large Farmer’s Market pavilion, similar to one in Saratoga Springs. “The main reason for the project is to get the Farmer’s Market out of the village, enlarge it and repurpose that lot,” Barusch said. “There would also be an open space component that’s large enough for an (outdoor, unrefrigerated) ice rink in winter.”
The $10 million grant would help fund many other projects including some developed by the private sector. For example, Adirondack Brewery owner John Carr would like to create a craft beverage campus behind his business at 33 Canada Street where educational brewing, wine and cheese making classes could be held.
Perry said $600,000 would hopefully be set aside for merchants to make street-side façade improvements with 50 percent matching funds.
“There’s so many great ideas,” he said. “We had so many great minds working with us to achieve this goal. A lot of work went into the application. We’re very happy with the result.”
Lake George is the second Warren County community in recent years to obtain a large Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant. In 2017, the City of Glens Falls obtained $10 million from the program. Much of this money is being used to improve South Street including construction of a 6,000-square-foot, multi-purpose Market Center that’s expected to open later this year and become Glens Falls Farmer’s Market’s new home.
In addition to Lake George, Hochul’s office announced that Schuylerville and Hoosick Falls would get $4.5 million each from the DRI program to improve their downtowns.
Barusch believes substantial public and private investment in Lake George factored heavily in the state’s decision to approve its $10 million grant application, called “Lake George Forward: Transforming Downtown for Tomorrow.” Local government and private entities have spent about $117 million on various projects during the past decade.
“A more than $20 million water treatment plant is just a small piece of the pie,” Barusch said. Several years ago, a new six-story Courtyard by Marriott hotel opened on Canada Street and Fort William Henry Hotel has spent several million dollars renovating its historic Carriage House into a multi-use event space.
Joined by state and local officials, Hochul announced the DRI program award and presented a check during Dec. 27 ceremonies at the Carriage House.
“This investment in Lake George will be transformative, making what is already a beautiful community even better,” Hochul said. “This commitment highlights our dedication to fostering vibrant communities for residents and visitors, alike. With an additional $100 million pledge this year for both the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward, the state has now proudly invested a monumental $1 billion in reshaping and revitalizing our downtowns, ensuring a brighter and more prosperous future for all New Yorkers.”
Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said, “The Town of Lake George is very appreciative of the Downtown Revitalization Award. We thank the governor and her staff and look forward to implementing our plans that will make significant improvements to the town. This will help us with municipal parking and housing along with some of our environmental preservation efforts.”