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Proposed Main Street LLC in Massena moves clsoer to reality

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MASSENA - Economic development officials hope the proposed Main Street LLC will be one step closer to reality after a series of meeting next week on revitalizing downtown.

Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena officials said they would like to hold a discussion with several investors who may be interested in the joint private sector effort at its Wednesday meeting on the downtown revitalization effort. That meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Massena Town Hall.

BDC officials had previously looked at possible sites for the LLC - group of local investors pooling their resources to revitalize downtown buildings. But BDC Executive Director Michael Almasian said the first step is to find investors who are willing to work together on the joint effort.

“First we need to have people who are invested in the idea - substantial, reliable people. Then that nucleus of people have to agree on a building (to renovate and open for business),” Mr. Almasian said.

He said he’d been in contact with a local developer who’d expressed interest in taking a lead role in the opening and operation of an LLC, but did not want that person’s name in print because the disclosure of interested parties could negatively impact the negotiations to open the LLC.

Mr. Almasian said it is not easy to find an investor who is willing to risk the time and money in trying to revitalize a building in downtown Massena, an area of limited economic activity. “Not your average bear is going to buy a 100-year-old building to renovate it and open it for business,” he said. “They’d have to fix up an old building, which is slow, difficult and expensive.”

But BDC officials expressed confidence that they could find those investors somewhere in the community. “I think there are people out there. We just need to find them and get them to move the process forward,” said Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson, a village trustee and liaison to the BDC.

BDC officials have identified several possible sites for an LLC. At a meeting in December, board members discussed two possible locations for the proposed Main Street LLC - the Sunrise Mall at 48-50 Main St., and the Massena School of Business, near the corner of Main and Andrews streets.

Bringing a group together minimizes the risk for any one investor, said Rick Hauser of In. Site Architecture, consultant for the downtown effort.

The BDC hired Mr. Hauser in April meeting for $29,950. His firm is being paid with the remaining $35,000 acquired for the village by former state Sen. Raymond A. Meier in 2005 for economic development.

“He has found that what worked successfully in the past is for a group of investors to get together collectively and choose a building to renovate,” Mr. Almasian said previously. “If a group of investors get together, they have less risks, less costs financially.”

During a conference call with Mr. Hauser Thursday, BDC board members broached the idea of having a smaller group of investors open a building that’s smaller than the previously considered sites.

“Smaller projects is the new focus of the BDC,” BDC board president Daniel S. Pease said.

Mr. Hauser said a larger building with a larger group of investors may be more successful. He said building space can be purchased at a better rate with a larger building and that the more businesses invest in the LLC the better the chance the LLC will be able to withstand the ups and downs of the economy.

“Smaller buildings don’t work well for this kind of project. In my experience, investor-driven projects are more successful with larger projects,” Mr. Hauser said.

Mr. Almasian stressed the importance of having a building with the potential for more diversified tenants. He sees the School of Business as a strong location for this reason, because it’s a three-story building with room for offices, apartments and ground-floor retail space.

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