Massena DRI project list whittled down

The stabilization of the historic Schine Theater was advanced by the Massena Local Planning Committee for potential inclusion in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — After meeting in small working groups on Monday, members of Massena’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative Local Planning Committee whittled down the list of potential projects to 10, which they outlined during Tuesday’s LPC meeting.

Projects were placed in three categories: ready to advance, need more information, or not for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Eighteen initial projects had been submitted for consideration.

One working group examined applications for the revitalization of historic 48 Main St., artifacts storage for the Massena Museum, Affinitas Life, Schine Theater and Massena School of Business creative rehabilitation. Local Planning Committee member Allison C. Smith identified the projects recommended to move forward: revitalization of historic 48 Main St. and the Schine Theater.

For the 48 Main St. project, “It was felt that project, based on the application, exhibited readiness for advancement, and that the sponsor had the capacity to implement and sustain the project over time,” Ms. Smith said. “It was also felt to be a transformational project and did align with the DRI goals and visions.”

She said the Schine Theater, which is owned by the Massena Arts and Theater Association, was a “transformational opportunity, and based on their application, exhibiting readiness for advancement. It did also align with the DRI goals and vision.”

More information was needed for the creative rehabilitation of the former Massena School of Business.

“This is looking at the IDA (St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency) sponsoring for transformation of the former Massena School of Business site into a courtyard or transitional space that connects the downtown corridor with the riverwalk areas while preserving the historic School of Business facade,” Ms. Smith said.

She said several evaluations of the property indicated the building could not be rehabilitated, but there was a possibility of saving the street front and creating a picnic area and walkway.

Based on their applications, the artifacts storage for the Massena Museum and Affinitas Life were not recommended for advancement.

A second group looked at warehouse rehabilitation, renovation of 94-96 Main St., Toddler Town building renovation and renovation of the former JJ Newberry’s building. Mayor Gregory M. Paquin said the committee recommended that the warehouse rehabilitation, renovation of 94-96 Main St. and renovation of the former JJ Newberry’s building advance for consideration.

He said the warehouse had been sitting vacant for some time but meshed well with the renovation of 94-96 Main St., a vacant building located next to the U.S. Post Office.

“That’s a really great project,” Mr. Paquin said. “The plans were very detailed. Great job of achieving some of the goals that we asked.”

He said the project, which would include adding retail space, would also involve tearing down The Village Pub, another vacant building across from the Quality Inn.

“Meshing nicely with that is project B12, renovation of 94 and 96 Main,” he said. “This is actually the old Wood Stove Shop. They have an empty space to the right of the project. That’s going to be turned into parking.”

That building would also be used for retail space.

“I think if you look at B09 (the warehouse renovation) and B12, they almost act as a gateway to the downtown if you’re coming from the south,” Mr. Paquin said. “I think it would be nice to have that area redone.”

He noted that, while the JJ Newberry building had served other uses such as a gymnasium and dance studio, “We believe the track record of the individual that now owns the building, we have the utmost confidence in his ability to do this correctly and make it something that’s one of the anchors of downtown.”

GoCo Ventures is proposing a full modernization of the property, with immediate work including asbestos removal, replacement of a leaking roof and addition of a rooftop deck, and replacement of the decaying 1970 facade. The group did not recommend advancing the renovation of the Toddler Town building.

The third group evaluated applications for Water Street Waterview Apartments, On the Rocks, Quality Inn, 9 W. Orvis St. and The Creamery. The lone recommendation for advancement was The Creamery on the corner of Water and Glenn streets.

“This project will renovate a 5,100-square-foot abandoned building to implement light manufacturing and regionally distribute value-added dairy products, including ice cream, yogurt and cheeses,” according to the application, which notes that the project includes adding a second floor to the existing building to allow for three moderate-income apartments.

Local Planning Committee member Mary S. Elman said the project was recommended to move forward because of its “transformational opportunity.”

“We felt it has the potential to fundamentally change downtown and how it is perceived,” she said. “The sponsors for this project have already committed significant time and resources to this project and they are ready to proceed. They have demonstrated the ability to implement this project and sustain it over time.”

She said the group felt that, while On the Rocks advanced many of the DRI’s goals, they needed more information about the project.

“The sponsors have committed significant resources into this project and the restaurant is already set to open in late May,” Ms. Elman said. “The completed work is not eligible for DRI funding. Therefore, more detailed budget information is required to determine eligibility for the incomplete portion of the project, which would be the outdoor courtyard and pizza oven space.”

The final group examined applications for and recommended advancement of Danforth Park, downtown enhancements, a riverwalk and CORE of the Community Fund.

“Our group felt that all of the projects were ready to advance,” Ms. Elman said.

They said the Danforth Park proposal “aligns with the DRI vision for serving downtown, upgrading parks and public spaces to include a variety of outdoor activities and public amenities.” The costs are yet to be determined.

They also said it “leveraged and embraced” the effort to achieve more opportunities for recreation and draw more residents and visitors downtown.

The downtown enhancements would include new lighting, sidewalks, benches, flowers, signage and other amenities, which Ms. Elman said the group thinks would result in community and economic benefits.

The riverwalk was advanced because the group felt it would create recreational opportunities such as kayaking, canoeing and fishing, and would lead into the heart of downtown. The CORE of the Community Fund was also advanced for businesses or organizations that might not have been eligible for DRI funding.

The consultant team will continue to refine the preliminary projects list, which will be presented during the second community engagement session scheduled via Zoom for 6 to 7:30 p.m. May 26.

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