Saranac Lake seeks funds for downtown building upgrades

SARANAC LAKE – The village will pursue funding through three different programs to upgrade and redevelop downtown buildings.

Trustees voted 4-0 Monday to submit an application for the so-called Downtown Revitalization Program through the state’s 2013 consolidated funding application process. The decision followed a presentation by Phil Smith, president of Glens Falls-based Avalon Associates, which is assisting the village with the project.

He said the concept “combines funding from three separate sources in an effort to do redevelopment of existing downtown buildings, including facades where we can, and the development of new apartments on upper floors of downtown buildings.

“If we can do the whole thing with all these resources, what you’ll be seeing is not just re-utilization of apartments – you’ve seen rehab before; Take an existing apartment, and fix it up,” Smith said. “In this case we’re talking about buildings where the upper floors will be gutted, and you build brand-new apartments in those spaces.”

Based on similar programs Avalon has spearheaded in other communities, including Gouverneur, Smith said each apartment could get $100,000 in upgrades.

What buildings could be upgraded?

“There’s obviously buildings that would be more eligible than others,” village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans told the Enterprise. “They’d have to have a facade that was in need of repair. To do the really transformative building that was described by Phil Smith, it would obviously have to have a residential component to it. A strictly commercial building wouldn’t qualify.

“We’ll seek interest from any and all current and potential property owners for projects,” Evans added, “and we will have a set of criteria and a committee that will help select the best projects.”

One of the funding sources for the downtown revitalization effort would be the Community Development Block Grant program. A maximum of $30,000 in CDBG funds would be made available per housing unit, half as a grant, half as a loan, Smith said.

Funding would also be sought from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Home Investment Partnerships, or HOME, program. A maximum of $30,000 per unit could be awarded in a deferred-payment loan.

The third source, which Smith called the key to the initiative, is the New York Main Street program, which can provide money for commercial improvements, facade upgrades and new apartments. The state would provide up to $50,000 per building and up to $10,000 for each housing unit. Smith estimated that a landlord adding four new apartments to a typical downtown building could receive $90,000 in aid.

“If you win all three grants, we’ll do the program I just described,” Smith said. “If we do not win all three, we have a fallback strategy that says we’ll do something less. In the case of Main Street, we’ll be doing facade improvements. In the case of CDBG and HOME, it will be more of a traditional housing rehab program that could be downtown or anywhere else in the village.”

Mayor Clyde Rabideau raised questions about the rental rate limits that property owners who apply for redevelopment funds would have to adhere to, which are set by HUD. For example, a one-bedroom apartment would be capped at $530 month, including utilities, for a 10-year period. The mayor said the limits seem low and asked how the rates compare to the typical rent for a non-subsidized apartment in downtown Saranac Lake.

Evans said the village has a wide range of different quality apartments, which affects the price.

“It’s not too far off,” he said. “With the ones we’ve done so far, it hasn’t been a problem with the property owner.”

“You may find there are properties here that rent for more,” Smith said. “You will find that the landlords willing to participate in this program are willing to trade a little bit on rents in return for a significant investment in their building.”

The Main Street application has to be submitted through the state’s consolidated funding application process. The deadline is Aug. 12. The deadlines for the other two programs will likely be sometime in September.

Before voting to approve the Main Street application Monday night, the village held a public hearing but there were no comments from the audience.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or