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Consultant pleased with Massena Main Street LLC meeting results

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MASSENA - Economic development officials met with potential investors for a large joint-business effort during meetings this week on community-wide efforts to revitalize downtown Massena.

The Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena has long been planning ways to jump-start and support a Main Street LLC, a group of local investors pooling their resources to revitalize downtown buildings.

Bringing a group together minimizes the risk for any one investor, according to Rick Hauser of In. Site Architecture, the BDC’s revitalization consultant.

“I was pleased with the way things went (at the public meetings Tuesday and Wednesday nights). It’s an encouraging sign,” BDC board member Larry Ralston said. “The key to this is that the Massena community assumes this is their project.”

Mr. Hauser said the first step to open the LLC is to get together several dozen individuals who are willing to make an investment that they might not see a return on for several years. Once the building is renovated and businesses move in, Mr. Hauser envisions these individuals would become advocates for downtown because they are financially vested in the success of the downtown.

“You want to have an open-ended LLC so investors can put in money that they won’t see for a while,” Mr. Hauser said. “They will generally become more engaged citizens. If you have 25, 30 people who put their money where their house is, they will become more engaged citizens.”

According to Mr. Hauser, about 15 people at the meetings expressed interest in contributing to the proposed LLC. “We heard a lot of interest - both from investing money and a wide variety of parties that have contracting, management and legal skills of interest,” Mr. Hauser said.

In some cases, individuals can offer services rather than money to help jump-start the LLC, such as a contractor helping out with the renovations to the chosen building. Existing businesses and corporations may also invest in the LLC with a goal of generating more commerce in Massena’s downtown, Mr. Hauser said.

Mr. Hauser also believes a larger building with space for more diversified assets would be better than a smaller building with limited development potential. He said building space can also be purchased at a better rate with a larger building than a smaller one.

“This approach tends to benefit larger projects. The benefit of a larger building is it’s actually cheaper than a smaller building,” Mr. Hauser said. “It’s harder to renovate but once you’re done you have a variety of assets and you have a pretty stable investment.”

At a previous board meeting, BDC 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.

Mr. Almasian noted the locations of a Main Street LLC are still in the discussion phase, but he suggested the School of Business might be a better location.

“We found (the Sunrise Mall) to be very large and daunting for the first effort,” Mr. Almasian said. “The School of Business is in the running because it’s attractive and appears in good shape.”

Another advantage Mr. Almasian sees in the School of Business is that it’s a three-story building, with room for offices, apartments and retail space. The Sunrise Mall is a single-story building made up primarily of retail space.

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