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Alden village officials hope to keep teens off the streets and out of trouble by turning vacant plaza space into a youth center, Mayor Michael Retzlaff said Monday night.

Retzlaff said the village is close to an agreement with Ames Plaza owners, MBM Investors, to trade an empty storefront from the plaza on Broadway in lieu of taxes.

"We decided to maximize or solve two problems at once," Retzlaff said. "Why not use this for our advantage."

Reluctant to decrease tax rolls, officials initially rejected the proposal from the Ohio-based company. However, with assessments on the property declining because of several businesses moving out, the village would probably lose the tax income regardless, village assessor Joseph Holcomb said.

Retzlaff said that exact dollar amounts are not yet worked out for either the tax decrease or construction and operating cost for the youth center. The village attorney is working with plaza owners on an agreement where they would possibly provide maintenance to the outer portion of the store.

Total start-up cost and staffing would be a joint effort between the village, the town and school district of Alden, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and other service organizations, said Retzlaff.

Village leaders long have sought a solution to escalating problems of teen crime. Retzlaff added that this would provide a recreation space in the village.

"We want to see if we can come up with a community effort to accomplish this," Retzlaff said. "The goal to all that is to have the kids involved from Day 1."

A tentative meeting of community leaders is scheduled for Sept. 16, when plans for the project are expected to crystallize. Volunteers and funding also will be sought for the project.

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