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Massena downtown consultant plans visit next week

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MASSENA - The consultant tasked with jump-starting downtown redevelopment will be visiting Massena next week.

The BDC’s board of directors unanimously hired Rick Hauser of In Site: Architecture during an April meeting for $29,950. The BDC will pay for Mr. Hauser’s firm by utilizing the remaining $35,000 appropriated by former Sen. Raymond A. Meier to the village in 2005 for economic development purposes. The village Board of Trustees recently authorized the BDC to use those funds.

Mr. Hauser will visit to gather information and present his strategy to the public in discussions at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in Massena Town Hall. The first will introduce the idea of a “Main Street LLC,” a group of local investors who pool their resources together to revitalize downtown buildings. Bringing a group together to revitalize a downtown building minimizes the risk for any one investor, Mr. Hauser said.

BDC officials have not yet specified which building they would like a local investment group to target first. Local investors are interested, but BDC officials have declined comment on who.

“They own a piece of downtown. They own a building,” Mr. Hauser said of an investment group. “You’re creating an ownership in the future of downtown.”

Wednesday’s talk, “Crafting a Revitalization Strategy That Fits Massena,” will highlight Massena’s strengths and opportunities and lay the groundwork for what Massena can do to turn its downtown around. Anyone “who cares deeply about Massena and has something to share” is welcome to attend, Mr. Hauser said.

“With an outsider’s perspective, I could give some insight and lay the groundwork for what could be a long-term effort,” Mr. Hauser said.

“We can have a dialogue and start to talk about the potential path Massena might take,” he said. “We’re listening and learning and studying and researching.”

Mr. Hauser and two others from his firm will also spend time talking with downtown business owners, and photographing, measuring and documenting different buildings in the district. The research will allow the firm to develop facade recommendations for each of the buildings, which in turn could increase Massena’s chances of landing funding from the New York State Main Street grant program.

The BDC committed an additional $5,100 at a May meeting for Mr. Hauser’s firm to perform grant writing services for the program.

“To even have a shot, we have to work very closely with current and prospective owners,” Mr. Hauser said.

In addition, Mr. Hauser’s firm will investigate whether downtown Massena could qualify as a “national register historic district,” which would allow property owners to qualify for tax credits if they commit money toward rehabilitating their properties.

“At the end of the day, the payoff is potentially enormous,” he said. “We’re trying to create a climate that’s advantageous for investment.”

Mr. Hauser’s Geneva-based firm has helped revitalize downtown corridors in other communities in Central and Western New York, including Batavia and Geneva. He said this will be his first downtown project in the north country.

At the BDC’s last meeting, Executive Director Jason A. Clark passed out information on the recent revitalization of Plattsburgh’s Strand Theater to board members. Mr. Clark said revitalizing Main Street’s vacant Schine Theater was one possible element of downtown renewal efforts, but many details still need to be worked out.

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