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Massena downtown revitalization applications available

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MASSENA — Economic development officials have finished and will begin to distribute application packets for downtown business owners interested in using portions of a $250,000 state grant to revitalize their buildings.

The Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena announced in December that it had won the $250,000 grant through the state Main Street Grant Program, which will be used to reimburse business owners who make improvements to their buildings’ aesthetics.

To receive grant funding, business owners must match the grant funding and adhere to renovation guidelines prepared by BDC’s consultant, Rick Hauser of In Site: Architecture. Businesses must be in downtown as defined by the grant, which includes businesses along Main Street, between Bridges Avenue and Andrews Street.

All applications for grant funding must be received by May 14. The application grading period will last from May 14 to 31, and the amount of funding business owners will receive will be announced in the first week of June, according to BDC Executive Director Michael V. Almasian.

Mr. Almasian said applicants will be judged based on 11 factors, including the severity of a structure’s repair needs, the location of a building, the significance of the building in Massena’s past, how the application reflects the recommendations made by Mr. Hauser, whether prior repair work has been done and the investment made by the owner.

Mr. Almasian encouraged all downtown business owners to apply for funding and for non-owners to volunteer their time to help the revitalization.

“We hope as many people as possible participate. When this is finished, we hope to have before and after pictures to show the state, and we hope to apply for more grants in future,” Mr. Almasian said.

The guidelines for renovation work appear to lay out steps toward creating a more open, inviting downtown that focuses heavily on real brick facades, open-glass storefronts and subtle use of signage and advertising.

The guidelines ask that windows not be covered by large amounts of posters or feature neon signs.

Those who wish to use grant funds also are being asked to restore original building features wherever possible and not to hinder the view of original windows, doors or building fronts with signs or boards.

The guidelines call for the use of more outdoor features, such as awnings, sandwich signs, flower pots and outdoor furniture, to make Massena’s downtown more inviting to tourists. The guidelines recommend the use of murals and historic plaques to make buildings more attractive.

“What the New York State Main Street Grant program wants is for you to have a nice, valuable downtown that you’ll want to walk through,” Mr. Hauser said.

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