With help from LA Group’s Pro Bono Design Program, Wiawaka Plans for its Future
By Anthony F. Hall
Friday, July 27, 2012
That good communities can be made better communities through good design is a principle with planning firms, one which they put into practice through the One Percent Pro Bono Design Program.
The LA Group, a Saratoga-based firm that has worked extensively with Lake George communities, has used the One Percent Pro Bono Design Program
to assist The Hyde, YMCA centers, Yaddo and several local churches with planning and design projects which they might not otherwise be able to afford.
This past year, Wiawaka was chosen to be the program’s beneficiary.
“We’ve donated approximately 300 hours to the project since February,” said Mike Ingersoll, a founder of the LA Group. “Wiawaka’s mission, history and grounds deserve support, and the organization needed some guidance. Moreover, a project like this one is a good exercise for our staff; they truly buy into the One Percent Program when it’s for a good cause. So this felt right.”
Ingersoll and his staff helped Wiawaka’s Board and its director, Christine Dixon, develop a Master Plan that will help the century-old retreat for women preserve its past while accommodating change as it adapts to future needs.
“This is the first comprehensive look the campus has received in 100 years,” said Ingersoll. “The plan doesn’t have to be perfect; it can change as new priorities arise. But Wiawaka needed a basic tool for planning and fund raising, and this will help.
“It’s very exciting,” said Christine Dixon. “Once we had the drawings, the goals and improvements we had discussed seemed more real and attainable.”
Among the first goals, said Ingersoll, is to preserve the natural landscape.
“The goal isn’t to make it a Sagamore or a luxury resort. In today’s environment, this is a very distinct place; it’s very romantic in many ways. We want to preserve the landscape by enhancing it, by opening up vistas and making certain that facilities do not detract from the landscape,” said Ingersoll.
Over the years, parking lots and driveways have intruded upon the landscape.
Parking lots can be shifted to the road and driveways re-oriented to preserve open space, said Ingersoll.
Administrative offices could also be placed near the road, allowing Fuller House, the main building, to gain more space for lodging and events.
“In Fuller House, the kitchen blocks view of the lake. If that were moved, there would be even more space for guests, groups, weddings and meetings,” said Ingersoll.
Since Wiawaka sees partnerships with programs for cancer survivors and women veterans, among others, as part of its path to sustainability, the facilities must accommodate group functions, said Christine Dixon.
The resort’s 1,500 feet of waterfront could also be better utilized, not only to provide more space for swimming but to dock a water jitney for transportation to Lake George Village, said Ingersoll.
Wakonda Lodge, built shortly after the resort opened in 1903 and which has been closed since 2002 is expected to be renovated and re-opened by 2013, said Dixon.
“We’re especially excited by the prospect of constructing an outdoor amphitheater at the site,” said Dixon.
According to Dixon, members of Wiawaka’s Board were scheduled to walk the grounds, plan in hand, earlier this week.
Among the topics still to be discussed include the future of undeveloped property across the road from the campus and accommodating off-season events, said Dixon.
“There has been some talk about winter activities and an expanded presence in the community, but no discussion about becoming a year-round facility, although that possibility exists,” said Dixon.
“This plan gives us a base-line,” said Dixon. “It’s fluid, and it can change, but in a generation from now, when there’s a new team in place, they’ll know where we were coming from.”
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