Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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With Jason Clark departure, downtown revitalization questions linger


MASSENA - Stacy Arquiett and Angela Frost are excited to move their hair salon, Studio 162, to downtown later this year.

They are encouraged by Massena’s recent efforts to revitalize downtown, and have appreciated the help Jason A. Clark provided. He informed them of potential grant money to take advantage of as they move from 162 to 49 Main St., and offered his assistance.

But with departure of Mr. Clark, the executive director for the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena, Ms. Arquiett said she hopes the recent momentum toward revitalizing downtown won’t be lost.

“We don’t know who we would call to talk to if he’s not there,” she said. “I don’t know if other businesses would have the incentive if they don’t have someone to guide them along the way.”

Downtown revitalization has been a central theme of the BDC in recent months. The BDC hired a downtown consultant, Rick Hauser of In Site: Architecture, Geneva, for more than $30,000 earlier this year. Mr. Hauser helped Massena apply for a $250,000 Main Street grant, draw up facade recommendations for area buildings, hold community meetings and attempt to qualify downtown as a National Register Historic district, making it eligible for tax credits.

Mr. Clark coordinated the effort between Mr. Hauser, downtown business owners and the BDC’s board of directors. Several downtown committees formed and numerous meetings were held. But Mr. Hauser will end his involvement with Massena when his contracted duties are complete, and Mr. Clark’s last day is Aug. 16.

The BDC Board will carry the effort after Mr. Clark leaves, President Daniel S. Pease said.

“We view it as a critical initiative,” Mr. Pease said. “For the time being, the individual members of the board have committed to continuing the effort while the search for the next executive director is in place.”

The BDC board still has to figure out how to keep the momentum going, Main Street committee chairman Ronald J. Bacon said. The board will have to designate a point person or persons to coordinate the effort while the entity lacks an executive director.

The town council and village board of trustees are expected to jointly convene and discuss the future of economic development in Massena soon. Supervisor Joseph D. Gray previously suggested the BDC should hold off on hiring Mr. Clark’s replacement until all options are explored.

The BDC board will have an interim downtown plan ready in case those discussions delay the hiring of a new executive director, Mr. Bacon said.

“We certainly don’t want to lose any of that momentum,” Mr. Bacon said. “We can’t have an interruption.”

Mr. Clark said he will discuss the downtown project at his last meeting on the 16th. He suggested the BDC spend additional funding and extend Mr. Hauser’s contract for another year and additional services to ensure the initiative continues.

“An enormous amount of time and financial resources have gone into the project already,” Mr. Clark said. “It would be detrimental to let that momentum fade at this point in time.”

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