MASSENA — What was once a furniture and jewelry business on Water Street has been transformed into a multi-use building with three luxury apartments and future office space.
An open house was held Thursday at The Mercantile, formerly Slavin’s Furniture, to showcase the changes that had taken place during reconstruction.
The upper level of The Mercantile contains three apartments, each with two bedrooms and two baths, along with other amenities such as central air, individual heat, laundry and a bird’s eye view of the Grasse River and downtown Massena. The main level will be used for office space. The lower level can be used for a variety of purposes. Historic photos of Massena are showcased on the walls.
Mayor Timmy J. Currier recounted some of the history around the Grasse River and the space now occupied by The Mercantile. He said Calvin Hubbard and Stephen Reed built the first dam and sawmill along the banks of the Grasse River in 1803, leading to the eventual creation of the village.
“Where we stand today is where the historic St. Lawrence Inn once stood,” he said.
The space on the corner of Water and Main streets eventually became the home of Slavin’s, and the store occupied nearly the entire block on Water Street from 1920 to 2000. But, after more than $300,000 in unpaid taxes accumulated, St. Lawrence County officials foreclosed on the property and the village eventually took possession of the building.
“Today’s open house is an interesting part in the next chapter of our journey,” Mr. Currier said. “In 2009, after much debate, the village Board of Trustees and then-Mayor Randy Delosh voted to demolish the unsafe portion of this building and keep the portion we are standing in now. Obviously that was a very good decision.”
The Massena Downtown LLC, consisting of Daniel Pease, Ronald Bacon, Michael Almasian and Vance Fleury, formed and began looking for a downtown building that needed a tremendous amount of rehabilitation.
“We thought this would be the perfect cornerstone for the redevelopment of downtown,” Mr. Pease said.
Massena Downtown LLC entered into an agreement with village officials in May 2013 to find tenants and redevelop the property to put it back on the tax rolls. Mr. Pease said the village allowed them to purchase the property “on the condition that we invest a considerable amount of money.”
He said they were fortunate to find Rick Hamelin to invest in a public-private partnership to put the building back on the tax tolls.
“He not only shared our vision of the building, but also had the means to make it happen,” Mr. Pease said.
“We are here today because of the hard work of the Business Development Corporation, the Massena Downtown LLC, Mr. Hamelin and several partners. These public-private-type partnerships are used strategically to fit our plan to bring great benefit to our community and those wishing to invest here,” Mr. Currier said.
He said other partners in the effort included the Moving Massena Forward Community Coalition, the Downtown Revitalization Committee, the Development Authority of the North Country, Empire State Development, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his team, Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, Assemblyman Mark Walczyk, Mr. Fleury and his Rivercrest Enterprises, strategic development specialist Leann West, village management staff and the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to the private investment from Mr. Hamelin and the Downtown LLC, public partner included the village, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, New York State Empire Development and the Development Authority of the North Country. The Business Development Corporation and the village worked together to obtain $500,000 in Restore New York Grant funding through Empire State Development.
“Thereafter, Jason (Hoxie) and Rick (Hamelin) got some money from the Development Authority of the North Country. The project still wouldn’t have gotten where it is today without Rick’s personal investment,” Mr. Pease said.
Because of those partnerships, “we have a beautiful new anchor in the downtown core, right here on the banks of the Grasse River,” and is now ready for occupancy, Mr. Currier said.
“We’re very proud of what’s happened here. We’re hoping that this is just the start,” Mr. Pease said.
“It’s been a very exciting project,” said Mr. Hoxie, who was standing in for Mr. Hamelin at Thursday’s open house.
He thanked everyone who contributed the money, time and effort that had been put into the project.
“DANC was huge. They were so easy to deal with. They were right there every step of the way,” he said.
Mr. Fleury’s Rivercrest Enterprises had handled the construction.
“Vance was up all night trying to figure out all these great ideas we wanted. He made it happen,” Mr. Hoxie said.
“I really want to thank Rick Hamelin. He was the guy that took a chance on me to do the project. The good thing about working for Rick, he always makes me look good no matter how bad I might be,” Mr. Fleury said.