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Tupper Lake mayor discusses state $10 million DRI award to Adirondack village

Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun
Pat Bradley
Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun

The Adirondack village of Tupper Lake has been awarded a $10 million Downtown Revitalization, or DRI, grant as part of the state’s fifth round of the economic development initiative. The state looked at the village’s record of more than $60 million in private and public investment in its Uptown District since 2014. State officials said the DRI funds will capitalize on those investments.

Narrowly re-elected in November, Mayor Paul Maroun says he, the village board and residents are excited to receive the award.

Don't forget this was our first time at attempting it. Several towns and villages and cities have tried one or two or three times to get it. So we have a good package. We have a shovel ready package and we're ready to go. I've already talked since it was announced, I've talked to the Department of State person who will be handling the program. And of course everybody thinks that once you get a DRI you just start. Well, everything, every project that we propose could be happening in a DRI now has to go back to the drawing board. So it goes down to Albany and they have to approve the project. But we're very, we're very hopeful that this DRI is going to improve the appearance of downtown Main Street Tupper Lake and downtown Tupper Lake. It's going to hopefully provide us the impetus to push this at least one hotel and possibly another one that's looking in Tupper Lake. It's going to help the Arts Center, which just if you've been to Tupper Lake lately Pat, they have the arts center. Right next to it is the State Theater, they recently purchased that. A big project is the Oval Wood Dish Corporation which is converting the old lumber plant, which at one time employed 500 people in Tupper Lake, to 90 units of housing and some commercial space for hopefully a brewery that will bottle and can there. So we have a lot of shovel ready projects along with the waterfront improvements at the Ballpark Stadium and the waterfront itself. So we're ready to go and people are very excited about it.

Paul Maroun a lot of communities have projects like that and they will also say that they're shovel ready. You mentioned earlier this is the first time you've applied for the DRI. Why do you think yours stood out so much that you got the funds on your first try?

I don't want to put any other community down because as you know I love the North Country and everything in it. But we have had private investors that have had the money up front ready to go to combine with the DRI funds to make these projects. For example the OWD Corporation, the group from Syracuse, which have done these projects before in both Utica and Syracuse at Franklin Square are ready to go and they have the financial backing to move the project. So that project's ready to go. A lot of times people say yes we've got a shovel ready project. I have a hotel in Tupper Lake that's been languishing for eight years now. Now they tell me they have the financial backing from several banks to move ahead with it. So when you have a combination of a good project, a good source group who's running the project, and private money backing it that puts you ahead of a lot of people who were ready to go with a project but didn't have the private support to help push it along.

Paul, it's a $10 million investment by the state and you listed quite a few different projects that do have sometimes the public private partnership investment that are included. How far will the state's $10 million in DRI funds move Tupper Lake in, you know, the re-envisioning that you're having and the redevelopment efforts that are ongoing?

Well, I think it's going to push it quite a ways. First of all, though, so you understand when you get $10 million there's some monies that the state sort of claws back because they have to hire an engineer. They hire an engineering firm to study the plans that we give them. Let's take the hotel project for an example. They would have to go over that with their engineers. They've already announced the engineering firm. It's the same group that is handling the Saranac Lake DRI so that's good to know. So you start off with about really $9.2 million. But it's going to push some of these groups that even with the private money didn't have quite enough to get over the line it's going to move them along. So I think you're going to see a lot of construction in Tupper Lake in the next 10 months. I'm hopeful, Pat, I'm hopeful that we can get this off the ground quickly. I've got a good committee that I had to send down to Albany. They have to approve the names. But I think that you will see construction before the end of 2022 from monies from the DRI.

Paul Maroun you're mayor of Tupper Lake and this year you were looking at a DRI distribution across the state where communities could have gotten $10 million or $20 million. In some cases the award was split and in this case that's what happened. Two communities got $10 million each. So when you submitted the application to try to get the DRI, did you actually have separate plans for either scenario, whether you got the $10 million or the $20 million?

Well actually this is the first year there was $20 million. It was always $10 million before. And I sort of thought that it may go east and west. So like Massena got to the west of us and us. I thought Clayton might be involved because of their hotel and everything that's going on there. But we were prepared. We could have handled $20 million. But we we didn't put a figure in. We put the projects in and why we thought they were important to the economic growth of Tupper Lake, the Tri-Lakes and the North Country. And I think that's what did it. We didn't specify how much we were going after.

Do you actually have funds in hands at this point or is this still to be incoming at this point?

No, we have no funds in hand. And I do have a beautiful check, a big wall check, a picture check that says $10 million. But everything has to be approved in Albany before funds start flowing. And we don't have actual money in the bank. I mean let's say in certain banks, we don't have any money in there from that. But we know it's been awarded and appropriated. So as soon as the projects are approved by the local committee and the state committee that's put forward for this you can start using them after construction starts. So we're ready. We are ready to go.

So it's like a pool of money and then you send...


...kind of like an invoice?

You send the plan down to Albany and let's say we're looking for, let's just say $1.5 million to start that OWD project, both the commercial side and housing side. If they approve the project and the project starts then they start getting their money back.

And, Paul, how much ancillary development do you anticipate because of the DRI that's not associated with it?

Anytime you get $10 million from the state of New York and you have a big splash like we did here and across the state, commercial banks observe it obviously and so do private investors. So they also know that something's happening in a community gets a grant for $10 million from the state and that propels you for other things in the future from people who are moving to the Adirondacks and to the Tri-Lakes and to Tupper Lake. So I think it's going to have a spin off that's very important and impressive for Tupper Lake and the surrounding area.

Massena was the other North Country $10 million awardee in the fifth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

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