University Games to leave sustainable housing in area

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Jun. 8—LAKE PLACID — A residential housing development built for the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games is designed to become much-needed workforce housing soon after the 11-day global sporting and educational event concludes in late January.

With the lack of affordable housing leading to a critical shortage of local workers in Lake Placid, the MacKenzie Overlook is a 60-unit development on Wesvalley Road being built on land donated by owners of the local Crowne Plaza hotel, a news release said.

It is considered one of the Games' most significant legacy projects.

A CATALYST

It's the perfect example of "taking the opportunity to use the Games as the catalyst to improve upon or to really fill a need here in the community," said Ashley Walden, executive director of the Adirondack North Country Sports Council (ADKSC).

"I'm super-excited that things are actually happening."

AFTER-USE MODEL

The ADKSC is the Organizing Committee for the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games, set for Jan. 12-22, the largest winter multi-sport collegiate athletic event in the world. Held every two years, it is expected to draw close to 2,500 athletes from more than 50 countries to compete in events that include skiing, skating, ski jumping, snowboarding, ice hockey and curling.

Larry Regan, president of Regan Development Corporation, said his group took a page from the "after-use" model used for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah and 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, Calif.

"Right after the Games, it turns right over to be used for permanent workforce affordable rental housing," he said. "We're able to put it all together timing-wise, so we can do both."

AHEAD OF SCHEDULE

Construction on MacKenzie Overlook, consisting of one and two-bedroom apartments, is expected to be completed in August, four months ahead of schedule. That means occupancy as soon as September, welcome news for the ADKSC, with intensifying housing needs for Games' staff, contractors and international officials as the event draws near, the release said.

After the Games conclude, the apartments, under Regan ownership and control, will be rented shortly after to workers who will qualify for affordable housing based on a percentage of the county's median income.

The Westchester County-based Regan corporation specializes in building housing for workers with moderate income. The company, a for-profit, family-owned real estate development firm, has been in business for more than 30 years.

It lists Glens Falls' Broad Street Commons, a 2019 mixed-use affordable housing project, and Plattsburgh's Homesteads on Ampersand Apartments in 2015, among its 30 similar developments in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

"We have a business model, and we're doing a job that not only allows us to make a dollar but also to help those most in need," Regan said.

Regan said MacKenzie Overlook's proposed 45 one-bedroom and 15 two-bedroom apartments will feature state of the art, energy-efficient, quality units "so people can live close to where they work."

'SPECTACULAR' PROPERTY

The Lake Placid project is built on a 3.17-acre parcel donated by the Lussi family, one of the area's biggest employers as owners of the nearby Crowne Plaza Resort and other properties. The family once considered the site, a former ski hill, for another hotel. But challenges caused by the property's steep grade led the family to consider other developments first.

"Now that I see the project, I feel that it's just a spectacular piece of property," said Art Lussi, Crowne Plaza Lake Placid president. "Do I have a little bit of donor's remorse? Yes. But it's tethered by the fact that we're doing something great for the community."

MacKenzie Overlook's location will allow residents and children to walk to Main Street or to the nearby high school, and community plans for shuttles to local supermarkets can help those without cars.

WORKFORCE HOUSING NEED

Both Lussi and Walden have experienced firsthand the effects of the dearth in workforce housing. With the FISU World University Games looming just seven months away and "a ton of interest" in those jobs, Walden said potential hires for the Organizing Committee have turned down positions because they couldn't afford homes in Lake Placid and found lengthy commutes impractical.

Lussi is part of a second-generation hotel family. They met employee housing challenges more than two decades ago by building or remodeling real estate on the former Lake Placid Club property, purchased by the Lussis in 1996. Now the affordable housing crisis has deepened with Lake Placid's growth in popularity as a tourist destination and hotels, restaurants and shops limited by staffing shortages, the release said.

"Every business has got 30 to 40 percent fewer people working for it than ever before," Lussi said. "It's brutal."

LITTLE LEGACY

MacKenzie Overlook is the culmination of an idea that started with since-retired N.Y. state senator Betty Little, a 17-year senator and longtime supporter of the Adirondack region. Prior to 2018, Little served as served as Chair of the Housing, Construction and Community Development Committee. She met with a local group that included Lussi, CEO/President of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism's Jim McKenna, housing advocate and current North Elba town council member Emily Kilburn (now Politi) and others to discuss options for Lake Placid. Little led the way to Regan.

Total development cost is $16 million for the 60 apartments, said Regan, including nine units for residents with mobility, hearing or vision impairments. As with other projects, Regan said a combination of private and public funding includes investors, state housing trust fund loans and tax credits. Rents are expected to range from $691 to $996 and include a monthly utility allowance.

Lussi said the project also utilized locally sourced elements like a Brant Lake excavation firm and granite cut in the Adirondacks.

Walden hopes that others follow suit in finding ways to help with affordable housing.

"It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day," Walden said. "There just needs to be more people like Art and his team that had sights on the future and what some of the needs were, and whatever means we have — whether it be a business or a hotel, or personal individuals — that can help support that, especially for those that live here long-term or around the community. It's important and that's certainly the message that Art and his team put out by donating this and making sure that it got done. It's what we all have to be looking towards."

E-mail: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @jlotemplio