By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — TICONDEROGA — The Huestis Building in downtown Ticonderoga is being converted to student dormitory housing for the Ticonderoga campus of North Country Community College.
The two-story building next to Sunshine Laundry, which formerly housed an antiques store, is owned by JASAMA LLC, which just signed an agreement with NCCC to provide the college with student housing.
JASAMA is owned by James Major, who is chairman of the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the community.
“This agreement signifies a major step toward integrating the downtown with education, business opportunities and future growth,” Major said in a news release.
The current agreement is to provide housing for 16 students for the fall 2013 semester, but Major said they hope to furnish lodging for up to 150 students in the next three to five years.
JASAMA will create two quad dorms on the second floor, where apartments are now located. Each will consist of four double-occupancy dorm rooms with a shared kitchen and a common room for study.
A bakery is expected to open this spring in the first-floor space.
By fall 2014, the second and third floors of the former Cobbler’s Bench Furniture Store, farther down Montcalm Street, will be turned into housing for 48 students.
North Country Community College President Dr. Steve Tyrell praised the agreement.
“There is much to be gained by our cooperation to improve the quality of life in the general Ticonderoga area,” he said in the release. “I’m personally thrilled by this understanding, and we look forward to being helpful in any way we can.”
JASAMA represents a group of local investors who own several vacant buildings on Montcalm Street in downtown Ticonderoga, including the former Cobbler’s Bench Furniture Store and the old Ticonderoga Market.
The first floor of the Cobbler’s Bench building has been targeted for small shops and space for artisans.
Alliance Executive Director Chattie Van Wert said the venture is good news for the community.
“We are so pleased that the Ti Alliance was able to help these two organizations discover their common interests. This is exactly the work that the alliance wants to enable. Now it’s up to the school and developer to bring this project to a reality, but we will be with them all the way, helping to facilitate wherever we are needed.”
She said the student housing brings a great opportunity to revitalize the downtown business district.
“Students living downtown will demand more goods and services and create opportunities for new and existing businesses. Their parents will visit and bring their families and friends to stay in our hotels, motels and eat in our restaurants.”
Van Wert said the alliance believes more businesses will be attracted to downtown Ticonderoga because of the students’ presence.
“Currently empty storefronts will be attractive to new businesses. Visitation and foot traffic will increase, and the downtown will grow.”
She said that ties into the Ti-Alliance’s grassroots vision of “A New Prosperity” for Ticonderoga.
“By co-locating college services in the downtown area, the college can serve as a catalyst for economic development,” Tyrell said. “There is more to be gained than housing if we work together to create a greater quality of life in the region.”
The Ticonderoga campus has about 150 students now, and the availability of dormitory housing is expected to greatly increase those numbers.
“This public-private partnership represents a new approach,” Tyrell said. “North Country Community College and community leaders can create a shared vision for promoting economic development in the Ticonderoga area.”
NCCC has student dormitories at its main campus in Saranac Lake, but none at the Malone campus, although college leaders have said a feasibility study is in the works for that branch.
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