The Spirit of Optimism

  • By John Ryan

The North Country enters 2003 with a thriving construction climate. The seven projects detailed in this article represent more than $21 million invested in the area’s economy. The construction projects SB visited were undertaken by Parker Chevrolet Oldsmobile Pontiac in Champlain, Pyramids Pre-School Services and Child Care Center, the Veterans Administration’s Primary Care Clinic in downtown Plattsburgh, local developer John S. Seiden, CVPH Medical Center, the Plattsburgh City School District and M&W Foods, operator of our local Dunkin Donuts restaurants.

Since purchasing their dealership in Champlain 10 years ago Rolla, Tim and Sean Parker and their 31 staff members have in-creased sales at Parker Chevrolet Oldsmobile Pontiac from 200 to 1,300 vehicles annually – an increase of more than 550 percent. The progress of the company’s recent construction project has been followed by many thanks to the zany Rolla Parker – Bird Berdan commercials on WPTZ Channel 5.

On March 27th Parker’s moved across Route 11, a quarter mile east of their former location into a new $1.6 million, 22,000 square foot building. Company president Rolla Parker told SB he pinches himself every morning when he walks into the building. “It’s way too nice for me,” he observed, recalling the family’s modest beginnings in the automobile business. And yet, despite all the changes, Rolla explained a concerted effort was made to keep the atmosphere “welcoming” for customers.

The new 30 acre location provides ample space for the new building and an expansive vehicle parking area where the Parkers ex-pect to inventory an average of 225 to 240 new Chevrolets and Pontiacs and 100 used vehicles. Customers visiting the new location will find a beautiful 110’ x 36’ showroom with 18’ ceilings and an abundance of natural light. The building also includes an expanded parts department and a comfortable customer waiting area. The number of shop stalls has been doubled to 12. Lighting in the new facility is so good, some mechanics no longer have to use their shop lights. Also included is a body shop outfitted with a downdraft paint booth and mixing room and a three bay vehicle detailing room. Employees have a comfortable break room, showers and workout equipment.

Rolla began planning for the expansion about three years ago. Whenever he traveled he took the opportunity to stop at any new dealership where he not only looked over the buildings, but also asked dealers what they would do differently if they had to do it again. The planning paid off. General Motor’s normal three-day on-site approval process for any new dealership took only three hours at Parkers!

General contractor for the project was Conroy and Conroy Contractors Inc. Subcontractors included Ace Electric, E.T. Harris & Son, Douglas Rushford Trucking, Merit Contracting, Todd’s Glass, North Country Garage Doors, Monahan & Loughlin, Alpha Con-crete, Plattsburgh Sheet Metal, Walter and Thomas Maliniak, Lee Kitchen, Carpet and Appliance and T. Stay & Sons, Inc.

Pyramids Pre-School Services and Child Care Center is in the final days of an $850,000 renovation project at the former St. Alexander’s School at 2155 Route 22B in Morrisonville. Melissa Dorsett-Felicelli, Executive Director of the non-profit company, explained that the total cost of the project is approximately $1,450,000 including the property acquisition, site work, construction, furniture and equipment. The primary source of funding for the project was a $1 million grant from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. Prior to moving to Morrisonville, Pyramid’s administrative offices were leased from JCEO at 60 Margaret Street in downtown Plattsburgh.

Melissa founded Pyramids in 1994 as an early intervention and preschool special education program which contracted with Clinton and Essex Counties to provide New York State required services. The majority of the company’s 68 special education teachers, speech pathologists and support personnel check into the office only once or twice a week. Most of their time is spent in children’s homes throughout the area.

With the construction project complete, Pyramids will expand its services to offer full childcare for up to 84 infants, toddlers and preschool children and after-school programs for 20 children.

Melissa explained that at one time she hoped to move to PARC. When those negotiations did not work out she looked at the former parochial school in Morrisonville. She characterizes the decision to move west of the city as a “blessing in disguise” since her research established that the communities in that area have a great need for Pyramids’ services.

Melissa has a philosophy in the operation of her business. She insists that everything is “earth friendly.” She takes special care to choose “products, food and materials that share the vision of protecting our soil, our air and water.” Pyramid’s new kitchen will respect nature by serving whole foods (meaning unrefined in their pure state such as whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh meats and dairy.) An appropriately trained chef will be hired. The marmoleum floor covering used throughout the facility is made from all natural ingredients. It is cushioned and easy to maintain. Melissa believes that it’s the perfect flooring for Pyramids’ childcare and special education environment. Other impressive aspects of the facility include a dance room where children can develop movement and rhythm and a unique “water room” where the children will participate in supervised water play.

Conroy and Conroy Construction, Inc. is the General Contractor for the renovation project. Design Associates was the architect. Sub contractors include Merit Contracting, Bill Jabaut Electrical, Johnson Protective Coatings, Todd’s Glass Company, Harold Way General Contractors, C&E Fencing, Anthony Mion & Sons Inc., Lee Kitchen Carpet and Appliance, Overhead Door Co. of Platts-burgh, J.J. Curran & Son Inc., and Saratoga Restaurant Equipment. Novatec is providing technical services.

The Veteran’s Administration Primary Care Clinic has moved from its CVPH offices to new quarters at Maison Heritage, 43 Durkee St., site of former Merkel’s Department Store in downtown Plattsburgh. The clinic opened on April second, only two weeks after concluding lease negotiations with property owner John Seiden. Health Net Federal Services, a publicly traded company, oper-ates the clinic for the VA. About one third of the offices had been renovated when SB visited; the balance of the renovations should be completed by May 1.

The 4,600 square foot clinic provides space to expand the services previously offered at CVPH. Behavioral health services and a program serving the homeless are being added to existing primary care. Patients will be able to participate in a program called “tele-medicine.” Large screen televisions and cameras will permit two-way communication between patients and Albany-based phy-sicians. Plans are being made to conduct diabetes and high blood pressure education programs at the clinic.

Conroy and Conroy Contractors, Inc. is the general contractor for the project. Subcontractors include Ace Electric, Charland Refrigeration, Johnson Protective Coatings, Lee Kitchen Carpet and Appliance and Bob Evans Fire Protection Services.

According to Seiden, Maison Heritage is now fully occupied with tenants such as Architectural Engineering Associates, Paul Seymour Financial Consultant, Multi Media Marketing, Drs. Kevin and Daniela Gitlin, National Life of Vermont and Libby Yokum yoga and counseling.

Seiden purchased the 15,000 square foot property in 1998. Working with Architect George Rosenvold and RC Construction, he has succeeded in creating some of Plattsburgh’s most attractive office space. The historic building’s exposed original brick beautifies at least one primary wall in nearly every office. Merkel’s distinctive tin ceilings were preserved wherever possible.

John Seiden is also nearing completion of a $1 million renovation to the 30,000 square foot William H. Beaumont Health Care Center, the former Grand Union building at 159 Margaret Street in downtown Plattsburgh. Only 6,000 square feet of the building remains to be leased. Since purchasing the building in January 2002, Seiden has installed new drain tile, repaved and graded the parking lot, installed new roofs and gutters, renovated interior suites, and upgraded sprinkler, plumbing and sewer systems. This spring he will install a seven-foot exterior canopy, landscape the grounds and do a few other finishing touches.

Current tenants include Primary Health Care, Adirondack Physical Therapy, Behavioral Health North, Dr. Sudha Patel, Dr. Laura Carbone and Dr. Craig Hurwitz.

Conroy and Conroy Contractors, Inc. has been the project’s general contractor. Subcontractors include Ace Electric, Charland Refrigeration, Douglas Rushford Trucking, Northern Blacktopping, Luck Builders, Inc., R C Construction, Merit Contracting, Bob’s Instant Plumbing, Carpet Network, Johnson Protective Coatings and Todd’s Glass Company, Inc.

CVPH Medical Center has opened its new and expanded Intensive Care Unit. The ICU is part of a two-phase $8 million project which also includes a waiting room, staff lockers and lounge, conference and class rooms, consultation room and administrative offices. Pizzagalli Construction Company of South Burlington, Vermont is the project’s construction manager. Morris Switzer Asso-ciates of South Burlington is the architect, BVH Integrated Services of Bloomfield, Connecticut did the engineering.

Project planning began in 2001, ground was broken in April 2002, and the ICU opened on March 24, 2003. The project should be complete by this July. Primary subcontractors on the project include Luck Brothers, Murray Electric, Bob’s Instant Plumbing, Per-ry’s Woodworking, Raville Painting Corp., Monahan and Loughlin, Adams Glass and Theodore Stay.

CVPH’s Assistant Vice-President of Facilities and Emergency Management Edmund L. Lydon explained that the project is being accomplished using a construction management approach. Pizzagalli Construction joined the facility’s design team, estimated the cost of the project and “put the contracts on the street” to pre-approved contractors and made recommendations to the Medical Center. CVPH prefers the construction management approach because it guarantees a maximum price for the project and also because it permits the project to start quickly. In the case of the ICU, site work was begun and structural steel was ordered before such items as millwork had been decided upon. Traditionally, all planning is complete before a project can get off the ground.

Lydon also pointed out that all Medical Center’s employee disciplines were involved in the process through planning committees and subcommittees. A good example is the choice of flooring. Hospital maintenance wanted floor covering that required the least amount of cleaning and had good wear characteristics. Medical personnel wanted a comfortable floor surface that was not slippery, would permit beds and equipment to roll easily and absorb as much noise as possible. The Medical Center was concerned with cost. After taking all these factors into consideration, marmoleum was chosen. (Interesting that it is the same floor covering selected by Pyramids Pre-School Services and Child Care Center, though for different reasons.)

According to Lydon the hospital’s expansion was necessary because the existing space was no longer sufficient to meet the clini-cal, environmental and technology needs of an up to date ICU. The former space was 33 years old and occupied 6,000 square feet. Rooms were only 150 square feet. The new ICU occupies 16,500 square feet and the 14 rooms average 250 square feet. They are large enough to permit an entire family to offer a patient support. Each room has a window allowing for natural light and many have a beautiful view of the hospital pond. All rooms have a door to ensure patient and family privacy. The additional space also permits each room to be outfitted with the latest technology. While SB toured the ICU, a seriously ill patient underwent an exploratory laproscopy in his ICU bed. Unit Director Kathleen Carey explained that this would have been impossible in the old ICU because of its limited space and technology.

When Dr. Michelle M. Kavanaugh took over as Superintendent of the Plattsburgh City School District in July 2002 she stepped into the midst of a $9.2 million Stafford Middle School construction project. Ground was broken July 1, 2001 and students should be able to use the school in September of this year. The construction is 85 percent funded by state aid. The addition features a 360-seat auditorium, band and chorus rehearsal rooms, music practice rooms, new regular and special education classrooms, science and com-puter labs, music rooms and new computers.

Dr. Kavanaugh explained that the additional classroom space will enhance the Middle School’s well-known team teaching ap-proach by permitting the school to cluster three grade levels (grades 6-8) in separate areas. Also, since more than half of the school’s 500+ students participate in band, chorus, orchestra or drama, the auditorium will enrich their experience and improve the comfort of audiences. She explained that the addition was important because of changing curriculum and student needs rather than an increase in the student body population. The project’s emphasis is the enrichment of student experiences in the arts and science to aid in meeting New York State education requirements.

Security will also be enhanced by the installation of additional phone lines. Teachers will be able to call out from each classroom. Dr. Kavanaugh said that the auditorium is being “looked at for community use” recalling that the Middle School’s pool has been widely used by the public. Murnane Building Contractors of Plattsburgh is the general contractor. Subcontractors include Four-C-Aire, L. H. LaPlante Company Inc., Gross Electric, and O’Connell Electric Co.

M&W Foods, a.k.a. White Management, opened its sixth Dunkin Donuts restaurant in Clinton County in October 2002. M&W Vice President of Operations Ray Aley said his “expectations have been exceeded” at the 693 Route 3 location near the corner of the Military Turnpike. Ray credits Tera Fountain, manager of the Cornelia Street Dunkin Donuts, with convincing him that Route 3 would be an ideal location. Tera pointed out the large number of companies and employees located near the corner of the Military Turnpike and Route 3, as well as the problems coffee lovers confronted when trying to navigate Cornelia Street during peak traffic periods. Aley said that Andy Chase, his landlord at the Peru Dunkin Donuts, concurred with Tera’s opinion.

The new 1,344 square foot facility is smaller than Dunkin Donuts’ standard 1,800 square foot buildings. It sits on a .52 acre lot adjacent to Kinney Drugs. Bob Sutherland was the Dunkin Donuts architect. Boss Contractor’s of Ipswich, New Hampshire was the general contractor. M&W Foods also operates Dunkin Donuts in Malone and, over the next two years, expects to open new facilities in Massena, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Potsdam and Canton.

The seven projects SB examined for this issue exemplify the confidence North Country businesses have in the future. Rolla Par-ker is enthusiastic his new building. (Isn’t that right Rolla?) Melissa Dorsett-Felicelli started Pyramids at age 26. Nine years later she is moving into a $1.4 million facility and has a staff of 74. The VA is moving downtown and expanding its services. John Seiden con-tinues to purchase and improve real estate in downtown Plattsburgh. Dunkin Donuts’ growth offers greater convenience for its cus-tomers. CVPH’s new intensive care unit will increase the quality of medical care and should attract more talented medical personnel to our area. The City School District continues to invest in plant and programs for the good of the next generation. Everyone SB interviewed expressed a spirit of optimism for the future of the North Country.

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