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Massena BDC submits downtown grant application

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MASSENA — If Massena receives a $250,000 Main Street grant award, downtown may experience over $2 million in new investment, according to economic development specialist Jason A. Clark.

The Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena applied for the funding from the New York Main Street Grant Program Monday. Owners of 19 different downtown buildings have signed letters of commitment indicating they will participate in the program if Massena receives the funds. Mr. Clark declined to provide the names of the building owners and the specific projects proposed because the application is pending.

The program requires all owners to match the funds the grant provides them. If all $250,000 of the funds were used, the Main Street grant would create a minimum of $500,000 in public-private investment.

But downtown Massena owners have pledged an additional $1,923,500 on top of the $250,000 grant, totaling $2,173,5000 in pledged investments.

“That is an enormous commitment,” Mr. Clark said. “This is the strongest application that we ever submitted.”

The grant could lead to the construction of three new downtown apartments, four new businesses and the expansion of others. A total of 19 building facades will could receive improvements from the grant, and the proposed projects may create 47 new jobs downtown, Mr. Clark said.

The grant will aim to transform downtown into an “eateries and entertainment district” open after 5 p.m., according to an application summary. The grant application is part of a larger revitalization effort underway, including the formation of committees to investigate revitalizing the Schine Theater and updating building codes.

Mr. Clark’s data was met with some skepticism at Thursday’s board meeting. Board member Crista Makdouli ran through a list of downtown building owners in her head and wondered how some would finance the improvements. Mr. Clark said the owners will finance the improvements through loans, credit or cash, and was confident in their ability to do so.

Board member Ronald J. Bacon questioned the estimated 47 jobs the grant would create.

“Does that include the workers that are being hired to make the facade improvements?” he asked.

“That’s in addition,” Mr. Clark said.

In 2005, the BDC received a $174,000 Main Street grant. The 2005 project provided Hugh’s Barbershop with $352.81 for improvements, the now-defunct Main Street Florist with $10,000. Eric Gustafson, 45 Main St., with $10,000, Phil Sheehan, 69 Main with $12,906.43 and Mike Almasian, 57 - 61 Main St., with three projects at $30,000 total.

The BDC also appropriated $60,000 of that grant to the owners of China Doll restaurant which was damaged in a 2008 fire. It used the another $13,000 to purchase benches and trash cans last year.

Mr. Clark provided the information on the grant in the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, prior to when he tendered his resignation to the BDC’s board of directors during an executive session.

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