MASSENA - Some local residents and economic development officials see the state grant funds awarded to Massena to revitalize its downtown as an opportunity to jump-start the local economy.
Approximately 60 people attended the first of two public information sessions on how to utilize $250,000 awarded by the New York State Main Street Grant Program to improve the villages downtown corridor. The meeting was focused primarily on sharing information on the various requirements on revitalizing downtown buildings, to ensure the work both meets the guidelines for grant funding and adds to the projects mission of creating a cohesive, attractive and historically preserved downtown corridor.
Some residents and business owners expressed hope that the state grant will be the start of better things for Massena.
Theres been growing momentum to improve downtown ever since the (Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena) recommended this. Were riding a wave of excitement over, said Ken C. Cornell, owner of Cornells Dry Cleaning Corporation.
Economic development officials also see revitalization as an on-going process, in which one improvement for downtown Massena will lead to another. What the New York State Main Street Grant program wants is create a nice, valuable downtown that (tourists) will want to walk through. You do get a if you build they will come (result), according to Nicole Martin, a consultant with In:Site Architecture.
The BDC hired consultants Ms. Martin and Rick Hauser of In:Site Architecture in April 2012.
At the information session, Ms. Martin and Mr. Hauser presented their plan for a revitalized downtown Massena and detailed the types of renovations a businessowner may make in order to be eligible for state grant funds.
The renovation guidelines state downtown businessowners should maintain or restore the original windows, doors and facades in order to preserve the historic structures of downtown Massena. Mr. Hauser said that if the National Register of Historic Places registered Massena as a historic district, building owners would be eligible for a 40 percent tax abatement on renovation work they do to the building, if the cost of the work exceeds the cost of the building itself. In:Site and the BDC are attempting to get Massena registered as a historic district, but so far their efforts have been unsuccessful.
Mr. Hauser said they are considering whether to continue their attempts to seek the designation.
Without designation as a historic district, property owners can still take advantage of a 10 percent tax abatement on renovation work to any building constructed before 1935, according to Mr. Hauser. He believes its important to utilize every opportunity they can to revitalize downtown.
Theyre all tools for revitalization, all pieces of the puzzle. You need the advocacy, you need the tax-abatement, Mr. Hauser said.
The facade renovation guidelines also include requirements on signage, color schemes and window displays for storefronts.
Its important for business owners to be sure their work will be cohesive, Mr. Hauser said.
Those interested in using grant funds will sign up for sketch sessions with Mr. Hauser and Ms. Martin to determine what types of renovations they can do that will be eligible for grant funding.
The program also requires all owners to match the funds the grant provides. If all $250,000 of the funds were used, the Main Street grant would create a minimum of $500,000 in public-private investment.
The revitalization grant will target businesses located on or near Main Street, between the Massena Post Office and the North Main Street bridge - the area the grant identified as downtown Massena.
However, Mr. Hauser said if the revitalization effort is a success, they may apply for additional state grant funding in the future. This money could either be used to help further revitalize downtown Massena or to improve areas of the village fall outside of downtown as defined by the grant.