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Massena economic officials seek leaders for Main Street revitalization

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MASSENA - While economic development officials would like input from all community members interested in revitalizing downtown Massena, they’re also hoping to see involvement from a more select group of skilled, motivated individuals who want to spearhead certain aspects of the revitalization effort.

The Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena has set a third meeting for next week, at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Massena Town Hall for individuals who may be interested in taking a lead role in one of six committees that will be a part of the Main Street revitalization project.

“This is a broad effort to draw in people from a wide spectrum of the community,” said Rick Hauser of InSite: Architecture, a consultant to the BDC. “It’s not a business group, not a owners’ group. It’s really for everybody with an interest in revitalizing downtown.”

The BDC has set two public meetings on utilizing $250,000 in grant funds, awarded by the New York State Main Street Grant Program, to improve the village’s downtown corridor.

BDC Executive Director Michael Almasian urged any downtown business owners interested in applying for grant funding to revitalize their buildings to attend the meetings at 7 p.m. next Tuesday and Wednesday in the Massena Town Hall.

“We’re going to want to see as many people as possible. I hope everyone who will be there is willing to work to improve downtown Massena,” Mr. Almasian said

The meeting Tuesday night has been described as more of an information-sharing session, and the Wednesday night meeting will focus primarily on forming the various committees required to identify how to use the funding. These committees are open to anyone in the community and will include a parking committee, a historic preservation committee, a code revision committee, a downtown theatre committee, a committee on forming a Main Street LLC and a committee for recruiting community members to take part in the revitalization effort.

In an ideal situation, BDC officials would like to see one or two individuals take a leadership role in each committee, and have the support of several committee volunteers who would contribute whatever they could to the committee’s purpose. The BDC would like to see these committee leaders at the Tuesday afternoon meeting.

“That meeting is for individuals who would be really involved and motivated and who would want to take a leadership role,” Mr. Almasian said. “It’s a higher level of involvement.”

Mr. Almasian hopes the committee leaders have particular sets of skills or knowledge of the committee he or she is leading. For example, a person with background in construction, rental properties or code enforcement may be most qualified to lead the code revision committee, Mr. Almasian said.

He said the members of these committees will form a permanent group called the Massena Downtown Coalition. “The coalition is the biggest umbrella group for anyone who has any interest in revitalizing downtown. It’s the biggest of all the groups,” Mr. Almasian said.

At a special meeting Thursday, BDC officials also discussed the possibility of hiring a consultant to help ensure projects are following the guidelines administered by the state’s Main Street Grant program. Mr. Almasian said the BDC should have already hired a consultant by this point, and he said the BDC is considering which individual to choose for the project.

“They are valuable people to use. That’s why we had one for the last grant and that’s why we’ll have one for this gramt,” Mr. Almasian said.

Mr. Almasian said the grant includes funding for a consultant, so the BDC would not have to hire one out of pocket. The grant has certain requirements that have to be met, such as the location of businesses that use grant funding, and a timeline for when grant-funded work can be done.

The program also 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, according to Massena’s former economic development specialist, Jason A. Clark.

Mr. Almasian believes that money could help transform downtown Massena into a stronger and more attractive business district.

“If 32 storefronts downtown get improved, that’s going to go a long way toward improving Massena,” Mr. Almasian said.

He expects most of the work related to the grant funding will take place in late summer or early autumn.

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