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Massena’s Homestead Dairy building purchased in tax sale

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MASSENA - A building recommended for demolition by the village’s code enforcement officer may instead have a new lease on life.

American Asphalt Inc. of Massena purchased the former Homestead Dairy building at 106 West Hatfield St. and an associated parking lot for $12,700 at last Saturday’s county tax sale.

Owner Shawn B. Thrana said he will begin immediately cleaning up the front of the property and then may convert the structure for a new use next year.

Mr. Thrana has several ideas for the building. He may convert the structure into a six-unit apartment building or turn it into a sports-themed bar and restaurant. Another possibility is to convert part of the building into a beer store and bottle redemption center and turn the rest into a laundromat.

He plans to replace the building’s roof and parking lot. The building is zoned residential and would need a variance for any of Mr. Thrana’s proposed uses, according to Code Enforcement Officer Gregory C. Fregoe.

“I can make it look great. Whatever I put there for a business, it’s going to look brand new,” Mr. Thrana said. “I’m not going to skimp on the looks.”

Mr. Fregoe recommended the village board demolish the building at a meeting in July. The former Homestead Dairy store’s front paneling and lettering is falling off, and the structure is deteriorating and in “terrible shape,” Mr. Fregoe previously said.

His recommendation is non-binding; the board ultimately decides whether to demolish a structure and typically retains an engineer to determine if the building is structurally sound before that vote.

Mr. Thrana said he expressed his intentions to Mayor James F. Hidy to rehabilitate the building before he purchased it in the tax sale.

“If they wanted it torn down, why didn’t they buy it?” he asked of the village.

The building can be saved, Mr. Thrana said.

“It’s a well-built building,” he said. “It’s built to last.”

Mr. Hidy supported Mr. Thrana in his efforts and urged the surrounding neighborhood to give him a chance to turn the building around. Last fall, Mr. Thrana gutted and rehabilitated a long-troubled 128-year-old building at Center and Syakos streets into eight apartments.

“They have a proven track record in a couple areas of the village already. Let’s see what his plans are,” Mr. Hidy said. “If it’s put together in a nice fashion, it’s something the neighborhood can be proud of.”

Mr. Fregoe said the Homestead Dairy or any building can be saved with enough money.

“If you’ve got enough money, you can build a house on the moon,” he said.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, who lives near the building, urged the village board at a meeting earlier this month to stipulate that anyone who purchased the building in a tax sale would have to demolish it. He said the mayor was “misguided” in his support for rehabilitating the building and hoped the rest of the board would still proceed with demolishing it.

The building has sat mostly vacant for the better part of a decade, Mr. Gray said.

“The building needs to be demolished. It needed to be awhile ago,” Mr. Gray said. “It’s shot. It has outlived its usefulness.”

Mr. Hidy said his top priority is to bring back Massena’s neighborhoods, whether that’s through the demolition or rehabilitation of buildings.

“If we can get it back on the tax rolls or if we can rehabilitate neighborhoods, that’s our mission,” Mr. Hidy said.

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