CANTON — Two Court Street buildings are expected to be torn down this summer to make way for St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union’s new office branch.
In May, the Ogdensburg-based credit union purchased the St. Thomas More Newman Center, 33 Court St., from Canton’s St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church for $225,000. The church had been asking $300,000.
CEO Todd R. Mashaw said the credit union will soon be finalizing the purchase of an adjacent two-story home at the corner of Chapel and Court streets owned by Elise Mattice.
Both buildings will be dismantled and replaced with a new 2,750 square-foot credit union branch that will include drive-through service and parking spaces, two amenities missing from the existing Canton branch office at 11 Court St.
“We’re hoping to open by Nov. 1,” Mr. Mashaw said. “It’s going to be an attractive building that will provide easier access for our customers.”
Asbestos has to be removed from the Newman Center before the building is demolished.
The Newman Center was exempt from paying property taxes because it was owned by the church. The credit union will pay property taxes on its building project, which will help the village’s goal of expanding its property tax base.
Mr. Mashaw said the credit union’s board of directors decided the agency should purchase the vacant home at 39 Court St. so customers would have easier access to the facility from Chapel Street.
That section of the parcel will primarily be used as green space and enhanced with trees and other landscaping, Mr. Mashaw said, noting that a large existing maple tree will remain at the site.
The decision to tear down a giant cucumber magnolia tree behind the St. Thomas More Newman Center was not made lightly by the nine-member board of directors, Mr. Mashaw said, noting that he’s a member of the board.
Members of the Village Tree Committee had been lobbying to save the tree, and some were dismayed last week to find the heritage tree had been removed to make way for the new building and parking lot.
Tree Committee Chairwoman Joette H. Holgado said her group will be meeting to process what took place with the Court Street tree and also discuss what actions can be taken to save heritage trees in the future.
“I think everyone on the tree committee is disappointed about this,” she said. “We have a good group of people who care about trees.”
Some communities in other parts of the state, including Westchester County, have local ordinances designed to protect trees, Mrs. Holgado said. Mr. Mashaw said he discussed the Court Street tree situation extensively with his board before a decision was reached. He said he also consulted with the project’s civil engineer and architect before recommending the tree be removed as planned.
“I knew this was a touchy issue,” Mr. Mashaw said. “I did spend a lot of time on it, and it was discussed at three board meetings at least.”
Changing the site plan at this stage of the game would require the credit union to return back to the St. Lawrence County Planning Board and the village’s Planning Board for approval.
Mr. Mashaw said those measures could delay the project by 60 to 90 days, which means a full construction season would be lost.
Also, he said there’s no guarantee the cucumber magnolia tree would survive the construction process even if precautions were taken.
He said the credit union has offered to contribute tree plantings or $2,000 to the village Tree Committee to help the group continue tree planting throughout the village.
“I offered to help develop the site, and I’m still ready to donate to their cause,” he said.