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Massena economic officials set meetings on downtown revitalization

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MASSENA - Economic development officials hope to see community-wide involvement in their efforts to revitalize downtown Massena.

The Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena 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 building to attend the meetings at 7 p.m. March 12 and 13 in the Massena Town Hall.

The first meeting will be more of an information session to better inform the community on the scope and goals of the revitalization effort. Mr. Almasian said the meeting will include presentations by consultant Rick Hauser of InSite: Architecture, which will touch on the boundaries of downtown as defined by the grant and the BDC’s vision for an organized downtown that preserves many of Massena’s historic structures. BDC officials will also distribute informational materials for those interested in utilizing grant money.

Mr. Almasian said anyone involved in using grant funding should be at the meeting, but he would also like any community members interested in improving downtown to be present.

“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 second 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 and a downtown theatre committee.

Mr. Almasian 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.

After the grant funds are utilized, the coalition will continue to meet on a regular basis to determine additional steps to revitalize downtown Massena and to apply for future grants to fund these efforts.

Mr. Almasian believes the presence of this coalition is critical to efforts to improve and preserve Massena’s downtown corridor.

“I’m going to need the coalition (and) Massena is going to need the coalition to get those grants (in the future),” Mr. Almasian said. “The meeting is less about the grant and more about the community.”

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.

The program 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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