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Clarkson accepts proposal on downtown Potsdam revitalization

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POTSDAM — Clarkson University’s downtown revitalization plan will include turning the Congdon Hall and Downtown Snell Hall buildings into market-rate housing and facilities for the Regional Arts and Interactive Learning Project.

Clarkson University accepted a proposal from Omni Housing Development and Sequence Development of Albany on Monday.

Clarkson President Anthony G. Collins said the university solicited proposals from 12 developers for how best to redevelop the buildings. Of five responses from developers who had partnered together, the Omni Housing and Sequence proposal was the most “compelling,” Mr. Collins said.

“It created the most attractive solution as far as the designing,” he said. “They understand the importance of bringing to life that part of the village.”

Congdon Hall will be turned into private apartments as well as residential units for graduate students and will include fitness and laundry facilities and common spaces.

“We proposed graduate housing for Congdon Hall because Clarkson is looking to expand their graduate programs,” according to Jeffrey A. Buell, president of Sequence Development.

The first two floors of the north wing of Downtown Snell Hall will be used for the North Country Children’s Museum, which will include exhibits, a shop, a community room and offices. The first two floors of the south wing will be occupied by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council for a gallery, studios, an arts incubator space, a visiting artist studio, offices, an “industrial” arts space and virtual learning resource center and a cafe and community space.

The redevelopment of Downtown Snell Hall also will include market-rate studio, one- and two-bedroom and loft-style apartments on the third and fourth floors designed to lure professionals. Exterior work will include newly paved parking lots and walkways along with lighting, benches, bike parking, trees, a bus drop-off and a rear-entrance canopy.

The green space across from the village office complex will be used for art fairs and other events and the space between Congdon and Snell will be for outdoor dining or a playground.

Mr. Collins said another reason Clarkson accepted the proposal was because Omni Housing and Sequence Development had the most experience with this kind of redevelopment.

“This project is more than the revitalizing of two buildings,” Mr. Buell said. “The whole scope of the project is being pursued with the hope that it will bring more foot traffic to the village and Clarkson community and breathe life into Potsdam.”

The first phase of the downtown revitalization consisted of creating space for health professions programs in Clarkson Hall, a business incubator for Clarkson’s Shipley Center for Innovation in Peyton Hall and business space in Lewis House. In August, renovations started on the Old Main building, converting it to the area’s first green data center for the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries.

“Market-rate housing inside a historic building like that and the RAIL concept are two things the village doesn’t have right now,” Mr. Buell said, referring to the Regional Arts and Interactive Learning Project.

He said the goal is to start construction on the next phase by the fall. The next steps are to discuss the terms of the long-term ground lease and to finish the design.

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