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University challenge will look at reuses for former OWD

August 24, 2012
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE - Syracuse University will hold a contest for its industrial design students this fall to explore ideas for the creative reuse of the former Oval Wood Dish factory.

Don Carr, a professor at the university, has a camp he spends the summer at in Long Lake. He explained in a phone call Thursday that he often drives through Tupper Lake.

"Being an industrial designer, you can't help but notice the building," Carr said.

Article Photos

The interior of the former Oval Wood Dish factory on Demars Boulevard in Tupper?Lake is seen in February 2009.
(Enterprise file photo — George Earl)

He also often sees logging trucks drive by his Long Lake camp carrying loads of timber.

Philip Stevens, who set up an endowment for the University's annual 360 Competition, had suggested having students dream up ideas for what could be done with an empty factory, or what new product could be built with the factory, Carr said.

So his mind naturally made the connection between the contest and the OWD and the potential for forestry products.

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This fall, students in the university's industrial interaction and design program will get familiar with the site and work through the semester on reuse plans or plans for sustainable products that can be made there.

The idea of the 360 competition, Carr said, is to approach a design problem from all sides, "don't always just go with your first thought." Some of the past competition topics have been more product-focused, and others have been architecture-related.

He's hoping to get some creative ideas for either products that could be made at OWD or uses for the building that incorporate sustainable wood products.

"We want to bring sustainability to the forefront and talk about ideas that are about the creation of sustainable products," Carr said.

The OWD plant, built in 1916-17 and reaching its peak in the '40s making wooden picnic ware, was last used as a factory by Jarden Plastics until 2008. Since then, only small sections of it have been put to use. A charity is running a "Help Closet" out of one small section, boats and other large equipment are being stored in different areas, and the caretaker had a wood shop in another section.

Last fall, a group of Tupper Lake citizens and groups started to push to find a new use for the building at 100 Demars Blvd., which is just over 100,000 square feet, according to online real estate listings.

Carr contacted a fellow Long Laker, Hillarie Logan-Dechene, director of philanthropy at the Wild Center natural history museum in Tupper Lake, because he knew she was involved in community sustainability efforts. Logan-Dechene told him the Wild Center has been working with the group trying to find uses for the facility, and she put him in touch with Melissa McManus, who has headed up that effort.

The two met, McManus told Carr about the community vision and goals for redevelopment of the site, and Carr told her he would encourage students to consider products and designs that fit with Tupper Lake's Adirondack setting and community goals.

Michael Jacobsen, spokesman for building owner Norman Bobrow, gave the go-ahead for the contest, McManus told village Trustee Rick Donah in an email.

Carr is set to bring students to visit the site in early September, and they'll also check out the Wild Center while they're in town. Carr said his students will bring cameras and document the OWD site as much as they can while they're here. He said he wants to get them here as early as he can in the semester so he get their minds going.

Logan-Dechene also told Carr the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake has several artifacts from the OWD in its collection, so Carr and his students plan to stop there on the way back to Syracuse.

"The Wild Center is very excited about the possibilities the students may create for the facility revitalization," Logan-Dechene wrote in an email.

Carr said he hopes to bring students back up to Tupper Lake at the end of the semester to present their ideas, but hasn't set a date for that visit yet.

"I hope we've got some good ideas to get people excited," Carr said.

In a brief Carr is working on to give to students, he suggests they may want to gain an understanding of the region and its many assets then work toward the creation of various goods or services that would be based at the OWD.

"Whatever path your team elects to explore, the goal will be to propose solutions that offer the potential for long-term positive impact," a draft of the brief reads.

"The community's absolutely thrilled with the opportunity," McManus told the Enterprise in a Thursday phone interview. "Use of wood is such a part of Tupper Lake's heritage, this is a perfect opportunity to do some thinking about what the site could be used for and how wood products can be used as part of Tupper Lake's revitalization in the future."


Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or



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