Applications due May 24 for Albion Main Street grant funding

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 May 2021 at 11:50 am

Projects will need to meet standards for historic district

ALBION – Building owners in the downtown area have until May 24 to submit an application for Albion’s Main Street grant.

The state will cover up 75 percent of some of the projects with a maximum award of $50,000 per building owner for non-residential projects. Residential projects could be eligible for up to $100,000 through the grant.

The Main Street grant is for $388,192 total and that includes $311,079 for building renovations, $47,613 for streetscape improvements, $25,000 for administration and $4,500 for architecture, engineering and environmental costs.

The village has contracted with J. O’Connell and Associates in Clarence to administer the grant. Two representatives from that firm met with building owners last week.

They shared the building work will need to be done by contractors on an approved list. That list is easy to be on, and the companies need to carry $1 million in liability insurance, said Betty Sutherland, project administrator.

The projects also need an environmental review to show if any asbestos, radon or lead paint is present. Those materials don’t necessarily need to be removed in the projects if they are undisturbed with the work.

The projects, including replacing or repairing windows, also need review from the State Historic Preservation Office. Sutherland said SHPO won’t approve vinyl windows in the downtown, which is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

That prompted one building to get up and leave the meeting which was held at the Lockstone. He wanted to replace windows in the Gurney’s Old Coach building with vinyl, instead of wood because of the lower cost.

“I don’t know who can afford it,” the building owner said. “I can see the wrecking ball coming.”

Bill Bixler, owner of Albion Agencies on Main Street, completed projects in Medina through the Main Street program. He tried to assure the other buildings owners the required steps are manageable. He replaced a roof and windows in Medina, and did masonry repairs. He was able to keep windows with wooden frames.

“It wasn’t bad,” Bixler said about the process. “It turned out nice.”

Sutherland said the building owners could piggyback on the environmental reviews, having one contractor come to Albion and do many in one day. That should bring the cost down.

Some of the historically acceptable projects will cost more than using vinyl or other modern materials, but Sutherland noted the state is covering 75 percent of the costs.

She said the state favors projects that have a visual impact on Main Street, and also are important in helping to revitalize the district for commerce and also for residential living.

The target area for the grant includes both sides of North Main Street between Orchard Street and West State Street, and West Bank Street from North Main Street to North Liberty Street.

The building owners were encouraged to submit bids for work by the May 24 deadline. Bixler said those bids may end up being “guesstimates” that don’t reflect the final price tag due to rising costs with construction materials.

There were about 25 people at the meeting last week to hear an overview of the program and what is expected of the applicants. Some of the building owners were concerned some people would be left out or wouldn’t get close to what they were seeking for their projects.

A committee of local residents will review the applications and decide how to divvy up the money.

That group includes Karen Conn, Code Enforcement Officer Kevin Sheehan, Tony Wynn, Planning Board Chairman Matt Hand, Mary Sullivan from the Village Clerk’s Office, Richard Nenni and Jeannette Riley.

Conn said she would like to see everyone who applies receive some money towards improving their building.

After the applications are in, the committee is expected to meet and decide the grant amounts two to three weeks after May 24. (Many of the building owners have already identified projects and submitted them when Albion applied for the grant. They were encouraged to update those submissions now that the projects go before the local Main Street grant committee.)

The projects all need to be done within two years from the when the grant was awarded. That gives the building owners and village until March 31, 2023.

The village is looking to use the streetscape funds to expand a municipal lot of Main Street, making it also more attractive to host a farmers’ market. The village in the initial application also proposed putting 8 trees, 4 tables with seating, 15 picnic tables and 8 bike racks in the downtown area. The streetscape plan will need to go before the local committee and also SHPO for approval.