Urban Renewal came to Saranac Lake in the 1950s and '60s with the George Lapan Highway. There was a very contentious proposal, later abandoned, to use urban renewal funds to condemn homes to enlarge the campus of North Country Community College in 1969.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 28, 1956
VILLAGE BOARD DISCUSSION ON URBAN RENEWAL
By ROGER TUBBY
The Saranac Lake Village Board voted last night to invite a representative of the Urban Rehabilitation Administration to come here to discuss what the federal government would be willing to do on a local urban renewal program. Andrew J. McGarraghy, Saranac Lake attorney, told the board that George Horan, New York regional director, is "willing and anxiOus to help".
Mr. McGarraghy has urged that "derelict" buildings, some of them on desirable sites, be replaced with modern dwellings or business establishments which would make the village more attractive in appearance and which would return higher taxes to the village.
'If a man has cancer," Mr. McGarraghy said, "and refuses to talk about it or do anything about it, he is going to die. The same thing is true of Saranac Lake. We have eight vacant stores and many vacant apartments. It is time we took a hard look at our situation and do something about it"
''If The Enterprise comes out with a headline that a college is going into Trudeau," Mayor Alton Anderson said, "it would change the whole aspect of things around here.
"As for this proposal, it is new and strange to us," the mayor continued, "and we want to know more."
"Experience in hundreds of cities where slum clearance has been undertaken proves that almost invariably, the land itself becomes more valuable than the land with sub-standard buildings on it, "Mr. McGarrahy said.
"Saranac Lake has sufficient land space for thousands of additional tourists, but does not have enough first class accommodations for more than a few hundred," Mr. McGarraghy continued.
"During the past summer, I had occasion to talk to a great many tourists and found that while only a small number were . actually were staying in Saranac Lake, a large number would have been staying here if we gave them what they wanted," the attorney said. "Apparently what they want are more motels of the type erected during recent years along Lake Flower avenue."
He declared that the total revenue of 100 derelict buildings in the village was "no more than $5,000 and there is no question but with the eyesores removed, the land would be sought after for homes and motels."
There was considerable discussion as to how property would be acquired by the village and then sold.
Trustee Joseph Drutz said he understood that Kansas courts ruled that no city under 75,000 could take part in the urban rehabilitation program. Mr. McGarraghy replied that the Housing and Home Finance agency says the program is not limited to large cities, but that it is available to small communities also.
Village Attorney Thomas Cantwell spoke of the problem of acquiring property from those who feel pride in it, and Trustee Vernon Wamsganz wanted to know who would decide what was "slum." Mr. McGarraghy said the Village Board would decide.
Mr. Drutz observed that it would "need great courage" to make such decisions. Mr. McGarraghy said he was sure "a lot of people were anxious to get rid of their property. Property around here is worth much less than it was three years ago, or a month ago, and it will be worth still less in the future, unless we take steps to reverse the trend."
"I'd like to know what happens after we go through this cycle of rebuilding," the mayor said. "In cities like Baltimore there is a great deal of industry. In Saranac Lake what would happen after we primed the pump?"
He was referring to the considerable amount of building and other work that would be carried on during the urban renewal program.
"We have the most beautiful section in the county right here," Mr. McGarraghy said. "Why don't more people come? Our potential is ten times what we now have."
Mr. Cantwell and Mr. Drutz said they'd like to see what other small communities had done with such a program of renewal. Trustee William Sheehan then suggested that a field representative be asked to visit the village and talk about the program.
Mr. McGarraghy said he thought the program would raise the economy all around and make it possible for people to move to better quarters. "I admit a person on welfare with a bunch of kids has a problem, but we have enough places where they can have decent homes."
Mayor Anderson observed what had been done around the shores of Moody Pond after the Thomas Cantwells built there; many attractive homes are there now where there were few before. It was agreed that lake front development is particularly important.