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Developer likely to get loan for renovations

A major property owner on North Main Street finally has financial backing for his plan to renovate three historic buildings near the site of the planned public safety complex.

Community Preservation Corp., a national nonprofit lending company, will likely approve a low-interest $500,000 loan for Richard A. Hastings to support his $1.4 million development plan, said Fred K. Heinle, assistant vice president of the corporation's Buffalo office.

"[Hastings] is taking a big risk, and that's what you need," Heinle said last week. "We're willing to work with him, and we're going to be shaking other trees to make sure it's successful."

Hastings wants to renovate 1810, 1812 and 1700 Main St., and open four new retail spaces, a restaurant and 11 new apartments in the upper floors.

The city is working with a private development team to build an estimated $44 million city courthouse and Police Headquarters in the 1900 block of North Main Street, which is several months behind schedule.

Hastings said he was unsuccessful in attempts to convince banks to give him conventional financing due, in part, to those delays.

The final package also will include $500,000 from a combination of Community Development Block Grants and a low-interest loan from the Center City Neighborhood Development Corp. Hastings said he will personally invest $400,000.

Hastings, of Youngstown, has purchased dozens of properties on or around North Main Street for nearly a decade and has faced criticism for taking too long to develop them. His most recent Falls project was the 2003 renovation of the third floor of 1902 Main St. into seven loft apartments.

"There have been times when I've not been pleased with the way he's maintained his [many vacant] properties," said Claudia Miller, president of the Main Street Business and Professional Association. "I am delighted things are going to work out for him because it benefits all our members."

Hastings, 66, said it has taken a large amount of up-front money and hard work to maintain his historic buildings, some of which local preservationists said are architecturally significant.

"I think a lot of people just don't fully understand what I've got invested up there," he said. "They think, 'He's so wealthy and all that.' I'm really not."

Shawn Weber is involved in a similar mixed-use renovation of an older building at Third Street and Ferry Avenue. He said he respects Hastings because he knows it takes a lot of effort to purchase and invest in older buildings.

"He's taking a tremendous risk down there, and everyone in the state and city should be bending over backwards to help him," Weber said. "I wouldn't invest there myself."

Weber and his partners, David and John Guisiana, are using a $300,000 low-interest loan from Community Preservation Corp. for their nearly $600,000 venture to bring a new wine bar, two storefronts and three high-end apartments to the struggling entertainment district. They hope to open Wine on Third by May or June, but don't yet have tenants lined up for the retail spaces.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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