Potsdam, Canton, Massena miss out on $10 million downtown grant going to Saranac Lake
Tuesday, August 7, 2018 - 2:35 pm

By CRAIG FREILICH

Saranac Lake has been awarded this year’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant for the North Country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Aug. 7.

Officials from Potsdam, Canton and Massena had high hopes that their communities’ applications would be awarded the grant.

Potsdam village officials learned of the decision beforehand but did not reveal what they knew at the time in deference to Gov. Cuomo, who was to make the announcement today in Saranac Lake.

“We’re obviously very disappointed,” said Potsdam Mayor Ron Tischler. “By the same token, we wish to congratulate Saranac Lake.”

Potsdam pulled out all the stops in the effort to secure the grant after applying in 2016 and 2017 and being denied.

This is the third year of those awards. Plattsburgh won the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s DRI competition two years ago. Watertown won last year. And this year, having been told they finished a close second last year, Potsdam made a special effort to take the prize.

Potsdam’s actual application just needed some touching up, as it was very similar to the applications from the previous two years’ competitions.

But they believed an earnest demonstration of support from the community could tip the balance in their favor.

There were solicitations of letters of support from community members from all sectors, including business, government, and education leaders and from the general public, all to be attached to the application. A rally downtown was held.

There was production of a video on the village, its support for the application, and its plans for using the funding.

The application focused on streetscape enhancement including decorative paving treatments, plantings, and new LED street lighting, and also the downtown Riverwalk plan, the whitewater park plan, and work on the East Dam hydro generator.

Canton’s application focused on projects in the downtown area and along Riverside Drive.

Among the projects cited in Canton’s application were a pedestrian walkway under Route 11 connecting Coakley and Willow Islands, a whitewater park on the east channel of the Grasse River in downtown, an arts park on Willow Island, continuing work on historic buildings downtown, particularly the American Theater.

Ogdensburg did not apply this year, but Massena did, in the effort for waterfront development as a “three river community,” community wellness, arts and culture, and workforce skill building, new business development and entrepreneurship.

Nearly 300 people turned out for a rally in May in support of Massena’s application.

Potsdam Mayor Tischler said he “couldn’t be any prouder” of the people who led the village’s effort, including Potsdam Director of Planning and Development Fred Hanss, Village Administrator Greg Thompson, and Clerk/Treasurer Lori Queor. And he praised all the community members who showed their support at rallies and by sending letters to accompany the application.

“We’ll call on them again in the near future,” Tischler said.

“For us the glass is half full,” the mayor said, affirming he believed the village should seek the award again next year “if it’s being awarded again. I don’t see why we won’t go after it again.”