MASSENA - A lead economic development official and long-time advocate for downtown Massena will be moving out of the area later this year.
Michael Almasian, executive director of the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena, will be moving to Watertown, Conn. by early summer. His wife, Alison, has taken a position with Taft School, a prep school.
Mr. Almasian said he will remain the BDCs executive director until June, after which he may be hired by the BDC as a contractual consultant. The Massena native, who had previously worked as an attorney, was named to the BDC post in October.
The BDC will advertise for a new executive director, either as a full- or part-time position. Mr. Almasian could not provide an exact date for his departure or when his successor will be hired, but he said there may be some overlap, as he brings the new director up to speed with the BDCs recent activities.
BDC President Daniel S. Pease does not believe Mr. Almasians departure will affect the BDCs efforts to revitalize downtown Massena using $250,000 in state grant funds along with matching funds from downtown business-owners. (Mr. Almasian) will be with us through June when the majority of the revitalization activities will take place - forming the committees, planning renovation work - so that when he goes off to Connecticut, well already have the momentum going, Mr. Pease said. So Im confident well be able to continue with our revitalization efforts.
Mr. Pease said the BDC will begin its search for a new executive director immediately and even after that person is hired the BDC will continue to utilize the services of Mr. Almasian for some projects.
A Massena native, Mr. Almasian owns two downtown buildings that contain retail space for four store-fronts, and he said he will be active to ensure that this retail space is leased to tenants who will be beneficial to revitalizing downtown. He said he also plans to keep his residence in Massena and maintain ties to the region.
Ill still have a presence in Massena, still fight for downtown. I hope the ideas I developed as (BDC executive) director can be completed by my successor, Mr. Almasian said.
Among Mr. Almasians ideas include plans for economic development along the Grasse River, an expensive, multi-faceted plan that would include the construction of a pier, boat launch, foot-bridge, lighting system, visitors center and a number of footpaths and beaches.
Mr. Almasian said an official from the states Department of Transportation found the plan favorable, a positive sign for Massena because the DOT often helps fund such projects.
Fixing up downtown is larger than one person. If you really want to fix a downtown it takes a lot of people, Mr. Almasian said. A good idea is the easy part, doing it is the hard part. No one person can do it.
Mayor James F. Hidy expressed regret to see Mr. Almasian leave the north country, but is confident the community can continue moving toward Mr. Almasians vision for a clean, vibrant and popular downtown Massena.
Its unfortunate. He had a lot of great, creative ideas. I know he was working diligently for the BDC, Mr. Hidy said. It will leave a void, but we, as a community, still have to move forward and wish him well in whatever he chooses to do.