Lake George is now headed into a transformation that offers insights useful to other Adirondack communities as they chart a course into the future that incorporates prosperity as well as maintaining a high quality of life.
With 100,000 or more visitors annually spending weekends or extended vacations in Lake George, entrepreneurs for decades have built motels, restaurants and retail shops to meet the tourists’ desires.
Many of the business owners or absentee landlords — a large portion from outside the area — have built structures to host business enterprises with one main objective: to expend the least amount of money possible.
Taking advantage of prevailing lax municipal development regulations, developers have constructed commercial buildings lacking in architectural merit. For years, many “new” storefronts have been merely alterations and conversions of residences — or new construction with minimal design and cheap materials. Meanwhile, historic buildings with outstanding architecture have been destroyed, one by one, by fire or unbridled development.
The result has been a village with a hodgepodge of structures of little or no architectural value, as the population of year-round village residents has slowly decreased.
Many discerning vacationers have increasingly sought out other destinations that have a more intact historic identity or have buildings exemplifying higher aesthetic values. And while Lake George’s clientele has shifted over the decades, some retailers have aimed to appeal to the changing visitor profile. Several store windows now displaying T-shirts with obscene slogans serve an example of what can result. Although Lake George has been rated as a top family vacation destination, some publications have used the terms “tacky” and “honky tonk.”
In recent years, however, Lake George has embarked on a turnaround.
Progressive leaders have envisioned an upscale, revitalized village full of year-round downtown residents as well as visitors, savoring daily life of work, recreation and raising families.