Morning Read: Ticonderoga revitalization effort stumbles

The Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance had seemed to be on track over the last year, working aggressively to kick start the village’s struggling downtown.

The group hired an executive director, Justin Woods, from Ogdensburg, who then recruited Besty Lowe, the woman who spearheaded creation of the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, to do fundraising.

Press releases popped, full of new projects and energy.  But then this week, the group announced that most of its staff, including Woods and Lowe, would be laid off because of budget shortfalls.  This from the Plattsburgh Press Republican.

The other three other alliance staff members, including Cornell University graduate student Anne Flusche, who joined the organization recently to do planning, will also be leaving when their contracts are up at end of the month.

The Ti Alliance is a nonprofit local development corporation whose stated mission is to restore economic prosperity in the Ticonderoga region. It had started hosting community events, including a recent performance by the Lake Placid Sinfonietta.

Alliance Board member Sanford Morehouse said in an email that this will be a time for them to regroup.

“We are disappointed that we can no longer afford Justin; his experience and guidance was instrumental in getting us to where we are today,” he wrote. “We all learned a lot from his experience, and we now have the opportunity to take what we’ve learned over the past year and develop a more sustainable business plan.”

This is tough news for a community that has struggled to translate incredible assets — the IP mill, Fort Ticonderoga, its location on the NY-Vermont border, into fresh energy.

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14 Comments on “Morning Read: Ticonderoga revitalization effort stumbles”

  1. Larry says:

    There’s no point trying to revitalize downtown Ti as long as WalMart, Rite Aid, McDonald’s, etc. are located out at the crossroads of 74 & 9N. Every town that allows business development away from downtown will lose their downtown. You really can’t have both. If that’s what the people of Ti want, well, they’ve got it.

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  2. Terence says:

    Larry’s right, I’m afraid. Similar problem up the road in Ti’s love/hate cousin Port Henry: when Aubuchon’s Hardware closed last year, that was the final nail in the coffin for Main Street. And remember the debacle over the Lowe’s big-box store? All those tax breaks and incentives, all that extra pressure on local businesses… just to close its doors without notice soon afterwards.

    I can’t figure out what can be done for this little patch of NY by the bridge: it’s too far from any universities to attract young teachers and their families, too rough and unfriendly to attract lots of fabulous artsy types — but it’s got such beautiful old buildings and could be so much more. Ah well…

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  3. Mervel says:

    Economic development is not necessarily downtown development, its about broadening the tax base, jobs, industry and tourism plus the many unique assets that exist in that region. Cute down towns are nice, but they are not in and of themselves preferable to any others sorts of retail.

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  4. Mervel says:

    I would by concerned about hiring staff when without having a sustainable funding plan to pay for that staff, how did that happen? I am assuming some form of funding that was being counted on was not renewed or lost?

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  5. Peter Hahn says:

    Mervel – I would think that if you are trying to develop economically based heavily on tourism, that a cute downtown would be far preferable. If your economic base is resource extraction, then it probably doesnt matter.

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  6. Mervel says:

    Sure I agree it could be part of the mix and maybe in this case should be the main point?

    I was just pointing out that the field is much broader than protecting one villages downtown business from competition.

    But it is a tough business overall I hope they can figure out how to move forward.

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  7. Mark, Saranac Lake says:

    I think you guys are missing the point – Peter Hahn is correct – the traditional retail is gone – Wal-Mart etc saw to that. What Brian is referring to is a downtown REvitalization effort, and Ti was attempting to do it through the development of the arts and culture and a “cute” downtown is much more likely to attract that sort of economic development than the generic development on the outskirts of town, sandwiched between a Wal-Mart and a closed Lowe’s. This sort of revitalization is worthwhile but needs to be seen as long term commitment. Saranac Lake has seen some success in its effort to revitalize its downtown through arts and cultural economic development, among other things, but it has been going on for 15 years and has been mostly done as local effort.

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  8. Terence says:

    I have to agree with Mervel here about the funding plan: they hire the man at 90K a year, he’s willing to move to Ti and make it his new home — and then they discover that they can’t pay him after all.

    Something very odd about that.

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  9. Larry says:

    Arts and cultural development is all well and good but won’t revitalize anything. If you want a vibrant, economically viable downtown you need people on the sidewalks going about their business. Cute is nice but business is better. As long as that business takes place away from downtown, downtown is finished.

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  10. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – If you want a vibrant, economically viable downtown you need to start with arts and culture. The smartest thing to do would be to fill the planning commission with the local artists and maybe the gay businessmen. But once you go down the WalMart path, its pretty hopeless. Then you go with suburban sprawl – lots of people like living in suburbs, but you need some kind of major job creation within driving distance (Albany?) and you have to compete with all the other suburban locations.

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  11. Larry says:

    Arts and culture?
    Local artists?
    Gay businessmen?

    That’s a weird mix and I’m not sure what you’re suggesting. Whatever, the last time Ti had a vibrant and economically viable downtown, art and culture both took place at the State Theater.

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  12. Phill says:

    This sort of thing requires years, and a major desire for diversity. Is Ti ready for that? Maybe.

    If you have any doubt about the draw of arts and culture, local artists, live theatre, an active gay population, and a large and active music community, I’d encourage you to look at the success of downtown Saranac Lake – multiple art galleries, several concert venues, arts groups, live theatre, more concerts per week than you can count, and plenty of young and/or gay business owners alongside longtime residents. Even an edgy modern art gallery and a good old fashioned hippie coffee shop (right across the street from an authentic French bistro, owned by French summer residents).

    New Hope is the same. Provincetown and Hyannis, the same. All successful “cute” artsy downtowns that have found a second life follow the same diverse model. Development in the year 2012 takes diversity, and a community that is wants to include.

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  13. mervel says:

    Certainly an attractive downtown is a big benefit, but I am a little confused by talking about gay businesspeople, doesn’t that play into all of the stereotype’s about gay people? Gay business people also own McDonald’s and subdivisions.

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  14. Larry says:

    Revitalizing downtown requires diversity? No it doesn’t, it requires people doing business downtown, period. There’s nothing special about gayness, edginess or artiness. Whatever produces business is what is needed. Advancing a social agenda has nothing to do with revitalizing blighted downtowns.

    By the way, I have been to New Hope recently and hope never to see its like in the Adirondacks. Lake George already has more than enough T-shirt shops and “souvenir” stores for the entire region.

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