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LLC formed to renovate Schine’s Theater

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MASSENA — Village officials say they have assembled people to lead a limited liability company to renovate and reopen Schine’s Massena Theater downtown.

Town attorney Eric J. Gustafson said he and Schine’s owner Thomas Gramuglia have found enough interested people to operate the LLC, and have prepared paperwork that is under review by the state Education Department and the state Department of State.

Once the state agencies have approved the certificate, LLC members will be able to move ahead with fundraising ideas to help pay for the cost of the theater’s renovation.

“We’ve had a number of people who are interested,” Mr. Gustafson said. “The first step is to get the entity formed and then to form a fundraising plan.”

Mr. Gustafson said they hope to have approval from the state by the end of the summer.

Economic development officials acknowledge there’s a lot of work to be done, with renovations estimated at $500,000 to $750,000 required before the theater could reopen.

Michael V. Almasian, executive director of the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena, has called the restoration of the theater a “point of gravity” in discussions to use $250,000 in state grant funds to make renovations to buildings in Massena’s downtown.

A number of residents have commented on the restoration of the theater as a way to improve and increase economic activity downtown.

However, Mr. Gustafson pointed out the funding provided by the grant would be insufficient to cover a significant portion of the theater’s renovation costs.

“There’s a limited amount of revitalization funding. It won’t be the end of our fundraising efforts,” Mr. Gustafson said.

Mr. Gustafson said LLC members will begin to explore fundraising options after the state has approved the certificate of incorporation.

Mr. Almasian said it’s likely a portion of the revitalization funding would go toward the effort to renovate the theater, pointing out the building fulfills many requirements for use of state grant funds, being a historic structure and an “anchor building” likely to draw people to Massena’s downtown.

“If you go down the scoring, it doesn’t take much to see how that will apply to the theater,” Mr. Almasian said.

Mr. Almasian also said he believes the theater’s renovation is crucial to the revitalization of downtown.

He used the example of other upstate communities, such as Geneva and Schenectady, that were able to better their downtowns significantly by restoring historic theaters.

Theaters provide venues for more entertainment, arts and music programs, which in turn can increase tourist activity at neighboring shops and restaurants.

“Whether you’re in California or New York City, arts and entertainment draw tourists, and tourists are on vacation; they want to have a good time,” Mr. Almasian said.

“In many of the downtown revitalizations that I admire, a historic theater was one of the biggest parts of the revitalization effort,” he said.

“To me, getting our theater back on its feet is important. That theater and the Grasse River are the two most underused assets in downtown Massena.”

In an effort to liven up downtown before the theater’s restoration is complete, Mr. Gramuglia said, he would like to restore the marquee by the end of the summer.

“We have a time schedule we’re working on, and one of the things we talked about is to bring this marquee up as soon as possible,” Mr. Gramuglia said.

“The marquee is already restored; it’s just a matter of putting it up.”

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