Holley seeking proposals to develop historic downtown building

Photos by Tom Rivers: A “Five to Revive” banner hangs on the former Odd Fellows Building in Holley’s Public Square. The Landmark Society of Western New York named the building to the “Five to Revive” to draw attention to an important building in need of investment.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 April 2019 at 7:08 pm

Village’s LDC now owns site which is considered an anchor of Public Square

Wayne Goodman (right) is executive director the Landmark Society of WNY. Brian Sorochty, left, is Holley’s mayor. Goodman praised the Holley officials and community for their commitment to redeveloping historic sites in the community, including the former Holley High School.

HOLLEY – The Village of Holley is seeking proposals for a new owner for a historic building in the Public Square. Holley wants assurances the building will be renovated in a way that preserves the character of the 1890 structure on the western end of the downtown.

The village wants to avoid another scenario where the building is bought and then left to sit empty, gradually deteriorating, said Dan Schiavone, chairman of Holley’s Local Development Corporation.

That LDC owns the building, which was given to the LDC by the previous owner who bought it at the county tax foreclosure auction. The owner bid online from Florida. She saw it as an investment, but no tenants or new buyers emerged.

The village stepped in, not wanting to see the building fall in disrepair and have to be torn down.

The LDC is working with the Landmark Society of Western New York to have an engineering study done on the building so a new owner knows of the issues with redeveloping the site.

“We will find the answers of what will be needed,” Schiavone said today during a community announcement about the next steps with the historic building.

The Landmark Society has committed $2,000 to the engineering study. That contribution follows the Landmark Society’s decision in October to name the site as one of the “Five to Revive” in WNY. This is the third time the Landmark Society picked a building in Holley for the list, which started in 2013.

The designation helped bring a developer to the former Holley High School, which is being transformed into senior citizen apartments and also the village offices. The chapel at Hillside Cemetery also made the “Five to Revive” and that helped spur restoration of the chapel and land state funding for the project.

Mayor Brian Sorochty, second from right, is joined at today’s announcement by Village Trustee Michelle Moroz, Deputy Mayor Kevin Lynch, and Dr. Dan Schiavone, chairman of Holley’s Local Development Corporation.

Wayne Goodman, executive director of the Landmark Society, said Holley has an engaged Village Board and community, willing to work through the obstacles to redevelop important buildings in the community.

The Odd Fellows Building at 89 Public Square is critical to the downtown. “It anchors an entire block,” Goodman said.

The Public Square has retained its historic charm, and Goodman said there is strong momentum in the village.

“There are great bones in Holley,” he said about the historic sites. “There are bright days ahead. This is an iconic village. We’ve been impressed with the local leadership and local pride in the village.”

Mayor Brian Sorochty said the Landmark Society has been a welcome and influential partner in helping Holley redevelop the old school. Putting the old school on the “Five to Revive” in 2013 “was the turning point” in a new life for the building, which had been vacant since the mid-1990s.

Holley created the LDC about five years ago so the village could accept eight houses owned by the Environmental Protection Agency, houses that were vacated by residents after a chemical leak at the former Diaz Chemical in January 2002. Those houses were sold in 2017 for $192,600. The EPA received 90 percent of the sales and the Holley LDC got 10 percent.

The Odd Fellows Building has been vacant and deteriorating for a few years. The village had a fence put on the northern side of the building because loose bricks were falling. The fence has since been removed.

The LDC currently has about $15,000 in its bank account. Schiavone said at least $500 will go towards the engineering report. More may be needed if there is asbestos in the building that needs to be abated.

Schiavone also said $10,000 from the LDC will go towards paying the county off for the back taxes with the site. The LDC asked the county to waive those back taxes, but was denied.

Schaivone said the LDC, instead of paying off the back taxes, could have used that $10,000 to make the building more marketable to a potential buyer. He is still hopeful the county will waive the taxes.

Schiavone said the Public Square looks better than it has in the last 50 years. Many building owners have improved their buildings recently. Dan and Monica Seeler last year opened the Holley Falls Bar & Grill, following several years of renovations.

Schiavone did a major renovation of his building about 20 years ago for his dental business.

He said the many projects in the downtown, as well as the old school, will encourage more people to invest in Holley.

“Stay tuned, there is more to come,” he said.

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