OLEAN – The Olean Urban Renewal Agency voted unanimously Thursday to approve the sale and rehabilitation of two buildings behind the Manufacturers Hanover Bank Building, on the northwestern corner of State and Union Streets.
About six month ago, those buildings had been slated for demolition.
In late October, area developer Jeff Belt asked the renewal agency to reconsider the removal of the buildings from 110 to 116 West State St. Otherwise, they would be razed to become parking for the tallest structure, the former bank building.
In November, during executive session meetings, Belt submitted a letter outlining his plans to improve the structures, restoring them to their historic appearance as much as possible. Belt offered to pay $3,000 for the buildings, $1,500 each. Members of the Olean Urban Renewal Agency voted unanimously to approve the sale, with the caveat that all restrictions within New York State code are met by the agency.
Belt said these buildings would be the perfect complement to the streetscaping that is to occur on North Union Street over the next two years. Using the analogy of what the 30-year mayor of the City of Charleston, S.C., has done in ending the demolition of buildings there, and how he has turned his historic Antebellum city into something better, Belt said the same can happen in Olean.
“With the development of North Union Street, there will be interest in those buildings. I am 100 percent confident that that will happen,” Belt said.
His proposal includes restoration of façades to the historic look, renovation of ground-floor spaces for retail uses, possibly to include human-powered vehicle stores or a cafe. The second floor of one of the buildings has been renovated beyond the ability to restore to historic levels, but that is not going to be a deterrent, according to Belt. That floor could be renovated to be used as lodging for visiting executives to local companies, college students or hikers going to the local parks.
The third floor of the buildings could be restored and used as open-plan incubator space for the Cattaraugus Campus of Jamestown Community Campus. Being that the buildings are less than a mile away from the campus, they could be included into Gov. Cuomo’s Startup NY credit program, Belt said.
To make the potential uses come to fruition, Belt will have to see several things happen, in the way of construction. Some of those items include full building clean-out, patching roof leaks, smoke and carbon monoxide detector installation and removal of obsolete coal chutes.
Belt expects the renovations to cost more than $400,000.