MASSENA Several working groups assigned with revitalizing downtown are forming.
Each group will focus on a specific task, according to Jason A. Clark, Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena executive director.
One committee is developing a blueprint for refurbishing Massenas Schine Theater, while another will assess downtowns parking challenges and potential needs. A third group will work with Rick Hauser of In Site: Architecture, retained by the BDC for consultant work, to develop planning and code guidelines for the business district.
Its part of a process of breaking a very large project down into manageable working groups in order to accomplish specific tasks, Mr. Clark said.
In his research on Massena, Mr. Hauser pointed out many ideas improving downtown parking and reopening the theater have been broached in the past by individuals. Forming groups to tackle those issues hopefully will bring about more results, he said.
Theres going to be a strong coalition backing those efforts, he said. The ideas are not going to fall prey to politics.
Last year, businessman Thomas G. Gramuglia stated his intention to sell the theater to a nonprofit organization that could secure state grants for its revitalization. The Strand Theater in Plattsburgh and the Clayton Opera House were both refurbished through a similar setup, he said. Mr. Gramuglia estimated the renovation could cost more than $750,000.
Since then, Community Performance Series Executive Director Amy L. Flack has pledged her support to the effort. Ms. Flack has met with Massena officials to discuss the success story of the Clayton Opera House, where she formerly served as manager.
CPS, based at SUNY Potsdam, is a college-community partnership presenting performing artists and arts education opportunities. A venue in Massena could complement the organizations offerings, she said.
Theres just not enough time on the calendar to bring in everyone wed like, she said. Whatever help they need, were really happy to help because we really want to see this space up and running.
The parking committee will provide Massena with a clearer picture of downtown parking, Mr. Hauser said.
No one has ever done an objective count of how many parking spaces there are, he said. Until we quantify the parking situation, its premature to say whether its a problem.
A fourth group will meet to determine what types of businesses would be best suitable for downtown, Mr. Hauser said. That group then will work to attract those types of businesses.
Once you create a momentum for downtown, it builds on itself, he said.
Mr. Clark said anyone interesting in joining the committees can contact him at 769-8484. Approximately eight individuals already are part of the theater committee, while the other groups are in the formative stages, he said.
Mr. Hauser talked with downtown business owners in a series of community meetings last month. He is preparing facade recommendations for 27 downtown buildings, which are suggestions on how a current or future owner could restore the structure. The recommendations will include drawings of potential improvements.
Theyre a good tool for the broader purpose of letting everyone see a future downtown, he said.
He also is developing a how-to guidebook for owners interested in revitalizing a downtown building. Both will help Massenas chances of landing a New York Main Street grant award, for which Mr. Hauser will submit an application next month. Owners can use a portion of a Main Street grant as matching funds for building improvements.
The main thrust of this initial round is to put a lot of tools in place to try and create an atmosphere thats suitable for reinvestment, Mr. Hauser said.
The revitalization work comes as Clopmans Furniture, a downtown mainstay for decades, soon will close. The closure presents an opportunity for Massena to reflect on downtowns future, Mr. Hauser said.
We should see this as a reinforcement of needing to reinvent downtown, he said.