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BDC considers downtown Massena sites for joint-business effort

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MASSENA - Economic development officials are looking at possible sites to revitalize in downtown Massena for a joint private sector effort.

The Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena has two possible sites in mind for developing a Main Street LCC - a group of local investors who pool their resources to revitalize downtown buildings. Bringing a group together minimizes the risk for any one investor, said Rick Hauser of In. Site Architecture, consultant for the downtown effort.

The BDC hired Mr. Hauser in April meeting for $29,950. His firm is being paid with the remaining $35,000 acquired for the village by former state Sen. Raymond A. Meier in 2005 for economic development.

“He has found that what worked successfully in the past is for a group of investors to get together collectively and choose a building to renovate,” according to Michael Almasian, executive director of the BDC. “If a group of investors get together, they have less risks, less costs financially.”

At its latest meeting, BDC board members discussed two possible locations for the proposed Main Street LLC- the Sunrise Mall, at 48-50 Main St., and the Massena School of Business, near the corner of Main and Andrews streets.

Mr. Almasian noted the locations of a Main Street LLC are still in the discussion phase, but he suggested the School of Business might be a better location.

“We found (the Sunrise Mall) to be very large and daunting for the first effort,” Mr. Almasian said. “The School of Business is in the running because it’s attractive and appears in good shape.”

Another advantage Mr. Almasian sees in the School of Business is that it’s a three-story building, with room for offices, apartments and retail space. The Sunrise Mall is a single-story building made up primarily of retail space.

BDC board members said it might be safer to choose a smaller location with the potential for more diversified tenants.

“With a smaller project, the debt-size is less of a nut to crack,” board member Ron Bacon said.

Mr. Almasian warned that renovations often go over their projected budget. “Going into a ratty old building and expecting the renovation of that building to stick to a budget is a lofty goal - an elusive, lofty goal,” he said.

Mr. Bacon also recommended they choose a tenant who’s got a proven history with successfully managing a business.

“If you’ve got a very solid, stable tenant, with a long-term business history, it’s more likely that they’ll succeed,” he said.

One board member, Larry Ralston, pointed out the location of the Main Street LLC is not necessarily the BDC’s decision.

“I don’t know how involved the BDC should be once we get the ball rolling. A lot of those questions will probably have to be answered by those who utilize the building,” Mr. Ralston said. “They’re the ones that are going to determine the building, they’re the ones who are going to determine what the use is going to be.”

Mr. Almasian agreed, saying most decisions associated with the LLC is up to the business owner.

“The BDC will look for people who believe in Massena and Massena’s future, but ultimately it will be their decision,” Mr. Almasian said. “I can give advice. I can hunt for leases, I can find fundraising, but no, I can’t make decisions for them.”

Mr. Almasian pointed out the LLC is at this point only a concept under the suggestion of Mr. Hauser.

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