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North Side League gets bailout

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The financially strapped North Side Improvement League will be able to survive by unloading its Mill Street building to Carthage developer Michael E. Lundy, who has promised to pay off the civic group’s debt and provide it with a new home.

After meeting for nearly two hours Tuesday night at the Best Western, league members decided to accept Lundy Development and Property Management’s offer, which will allow the organization to relocate to a smaller facility on the city’s north side.

In addition to the new home, Mr. Lundy’s development company will give the organization $100,000, enough to pay off its $97,000 debt, league President Joseph S. Parker said afterward.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lundy said, he is working with an undisclosed tenant for the 9,600-square-foot building at 633 Mill St., which he intends to refurbish.

Mr. Parker said the deal breathes new life into the century-old improvement league. With a two-thirds approval needed, members voted 34-17 to go ahead with the deal, he told Mr. Lundy.

“Either we were going to move forward or put it to bed,” Mr. Parker said during an impromptu news conference. “We’re moving forward.”

If the 44-year-old building were actually sold, the transaction would have to be approved by a state Supreme Court judge because the North Side Improvement League is a nonprofit organization, finance officer Brenda L. Parker, wife of Joseph Parker, said last week. This deal is not an actual sale, but a property trade.

As part of the deal, Mr. Lundy will have two years to find different property and complete the project, said Mr. Parker, who said he hopes to be in the new home in “a year or so.” The league also “has control” to approve the new site and design of the building, he said.

The new home will be about 3,500 square feet to accommodate about 150 people; the current building can handle about 700 people.

The building is in rough shape, needing repairs to the roof and the electrical, septic and water systems, Mr. Parker said. It will remain closed until a new site is found, he said.

But Mr. Lundy insisted that the building and large parking lot can be reused, contending “it’s a very valuable piece of property” that can provide an economic boost to the city’s north side.

“We’ll start doing due diligence,” he said.

The building and property are assessed at $395,200, according to city property records.

Mr. Lundy has a similar arrangement with Watertown Aerie 782, Fraternal Order of Eagles, to build a new clubhouse. In June 2012, Mr. Lundy announced he was helping the Eagles Club move to a parcel at Northland Plaza, off State Street, in exchange for its Route 11 property.

Although the two parties have since agreed not to pursue the State Street site, Mr. Lundy said the project is still a go and he is looking for a new location. He intends to use the site of the Route 11 clubhouse for new development. It is situated adjacent to his Washington Summit medical complex.

Some North Side League members disagreed that the organization should stay in business, since it has suffered from dwindling membership and increasing debt.

Sharon J. Inghem, a member for four decades, wondered whether the league will find itself in the same situation again 10 years from now. “For me, it’s not a good deal,” she said.

She said she doubts the organization will ever return to its heyday, when it had 1,500 members, hosted numerous events and held political influence in the city. Mrs. Inghem criticized the way the Parkers have run the organization, saying they chased people away by making too many changes and getting away from what the organization was always about.

“No one wants to go there or work there,” said Mrs. Inghem, whose late husband, Roy, and other family members were actively involved for years.

James D. Strader, a member for almost 40 years, said the league had to take the offer to continue.

“I don’t see any other alternative,” he said.

League officials decided to close in October after the group failed to pay an overdue $232 city water bill. The league has stopped holding Monday night bingo games and other events while waiting to reorganize.

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