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Massena BDC hires downtown consultant

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By BRIAN HAYDEN

MASSENA - Hiring a consultant for downtown redevelopment will be money well spent, according to Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena officials.

The BDC’s Board of Directors unanimously hired Rick Hauser of In Site Architecture at the end of a recent meeting for $29,950. The BDC will pay for Mr. Hauser by utilizing the remaining $35,000 appropriated by Sen. Raymond Meier to the village in 2005 for economic development purposes. The village’s Board of Trustees recently authorized the BDC to utilize those funds.

“Bringing Rick in helps create the forum and format necessary to ... bring the community together to initiate and discuss where we want economic development to go,” Executive Director Jason A. Clark said.

While past downtown redevelopment efforts have been piecemeal, Mr. Hauser will help Massena develop a comprehensive strategy for resurrecting downtown, Mr. Clark said. He recently traveled to several communities in Western and Central New York which retained Mr. Hauser’s services - Geneva, Avon, Attica, Batavia and Perry - and was impressed with the results.

The storefronts in those downtowns were well maintained even if they were vacant, Mr. Clark said.

“It appears that Massena is well postioned to beenfit from retaining Mr. Hauser’s services,” Mr. Clark said.

Mr. Hauser’s “action plan” will not be shelved, according to board President Daniel S. Pease. The strategy will help establish a “Main Street LLC,” an organization which would recruit local investors to refurbish downtown buildings.

The Main Street LLC would first focus on one downtown building, Mr. Pease said, and several local investors have already expressed interest. He did not yet know which building that would be.

“He appears to be able to offer us more than just another study,” Mr. Pease said. “It’s not just a study that’s going to be put on the shelf. It can easily create the momentum needed for a full scale revitalization of the downtown area.”

Mr. Hauser will also provide Massena with facade recommendations for specific buildings and work with local historians to determine if any structures would qualify for state grants.

“If he can provide the blueprint and begin the momentum toward creating this Main Street LLC concept, I believe it will be money well spent,” Mr. Pease added.

The BDC wanted the help of a consultant with a proven track record in other communities, Mr. Pease said.

“I’m not saying we lack the expertise on the board ... but we certainly lack the experience,” he said.

Board member Larry Ralston was also impressed with Mr. Hauser’s track record.

“His resume, so to speak, seemed to indicate he is a man that gets things done,” Mr. Ralston said.

Making downtown Massena more attractive is a critical recruitment tool for prospective companies, he said.

“Downtown Massena has to be fixed. It’s going to have to start one building at a time,” Mr. Ralston said. “Downtown, rather than being a liability, could be an asset.”

Mayor James F. Hidy was not in support of the BDC looking outside for help. The BDC could have contacted other successful downtown communities and learned from them without hiring a consultant, Mr. Hidy said.

“It’s all about communities sharing information, and it’s free,” Mr. Hidy said.

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