Albion

Scaled-down music fest draws a crowd to Bullard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 August 2021 at 4:12 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The “Rock the Park” festival returned in a scaled-down format today at Bullard Psrk. The event, renamed “Albion Summer Festival 6.5,” featured two bands today and they performed at the new amphitheater at Bullard Park.

The top photo shows the band, Vette, performing “Nothin’ But A Good Time” by Poison. Vette includes, front, from left: Travis Mackie, Kole Moore and Alex Fitzak. Shelby Starr is the drummer.

There were 18 different food and craft vendors, including Pamela Jenks of Pretty Sweet Bakery in far back. The spot in foreground is Red Check Rustic.

The festival was cancelled last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, but returned today when Albion and Medina played youth football games.

Kyle Webb, right, and Matt Hollenbeck cook hamburgers at the Masonic Lodge’s food stand. The Masons will be at all of the Albion home football games this year at Bullard Park.

The splash park at Bullard was a busy place on a hot summer day today.

Albion schools holding off on mask decision

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 August 2021 at 3:09 pm

District won’t offer remote learning as option in 2021-22 school year

Mickey Edwards

ALBION – School district leaders are holding off on making a decision on mask-wearing for students until waiting to see if there will be a mandate about masks from Kathy Hochul, who takes over as governor on Tuesday.

Hochul has already indicated she expects there will be masking mandates from the state. That could be tied to the level of community spread of Covid-19. Mickey Edwards, Albion school superintendent, said what could be mandated by the state is currently “unclear.”

Therefore, the district is waiting to make a decision about masking for students until late August, “when it becomes clear what our new Governor will require,” Edwards said in a letter to the community today.

The new school year is scheduled to start for classes on Sept. 8. Today was the first day of practice for the fall sports.

Edwards said a decision has been made about remote learning and it won’t be an option this coming school year. Last year Albion had students on remote learning for Wednesdays, and an alternative schedule of two days in-person each week and the other two days remote for most of the school year. Many students also were fully remote every day of the school year.

“We have made it our priority to get our children back in school safely, in-person, every day,” Edwards wrote in the letter. “We appreciate your patience and support throughout the pandemic and look forward to working closely with all our Albion families as we reopen for the 2011-22 school year.”

Who Dats close out Albion’s summer concert series by canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 August 2021 at 8:37 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Who Dats performed the final concert Thursday for Albion’s summer concert series by the Erie Canal.  The band includes lead singer Lonnie Froman, John Borello on guitar (in back), Alona Kuhns on guitar (in back in white shorts), Ed Hilfiker on guitar and Alex DeSmit on drums.

Last year’s concert series was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. This year the concert series was reduced to four events that tended to draw 100 to 150 people.

Other bands that performed included Jonesie and the Cruisers, Cold Fusion Arts and The Trellis Cooper Band.

The Village of Albion organized the concerts, which included funding from the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council.

Lonnie Froman sings during Thursday’s concert by the canal. The concerts are held at the end of Platt Street, between the Main and Ingersoll lift bridges.

Alex DeSmit is the new drummer for the band, which has been popular locally for many years.

Biggest group yet of motorcyclists for Jason Johnston scholarship benefit

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 August 2021 at 12:24 pm

126 motorcyclists riding 100 miles today in 4-county trip

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Motorcyclists head out for a 100-mile ride at about 11 this morning from the Albion Elks Lodge on West State Street where there is a memorial in honor of Jason Johnston.

This is the seventh ride in honor of Jason Johnston with the proceeds from the event going to the Jason Johnston memorial scholarship.

There are 126 motorcyclists in the ride today, the most ever for the event. They each pay $20 per driver with $10 for passengers.

The proceeds from today’s event goes to a scholarship fund that has enough money to ensure the $1,000 annual scholarship will continue for at least another 36 years, said Mike Reigle, president of the Albion Elks Riders, which manages today’s ride.

The scholarship goes to a graduating senior pursuing a helping profession. Applicants need to write an essay about the golden rule. This year’s scholarship winner is Nolberto Martinez Maya.

Brad Johnston, left, chats with Mike Waterhouse before the ride. Johnston is Jason’s father and he is a member of the Albion Elks Riders.

Jason Johnston was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Dec. 26, 2009. Johnston was a specialist and paratrooper in the Army. He was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He completed a 13-month-deployment in 2008 and left again for the war-torn country in October 2009

The riders paused to say the Pledge of Allegiance before heading out. The ride includes stops at the Alabama Hotel, Duffy’s in Mumford, the Brockport Elks Lodge and then will conclude at about 5 p.m. at the Albion Elks Lodge on West State Street. There will then be food and live music from Bandera, a local country music group. There is a $5 cover charge to attend the concert, with no additional charge to the motorcyclists.

The riders are staggered in groups so each establishment isn’t inundated with all the riders at once.

Linwood, Ingersoll intersection now 4-way stop in Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2021 at 12:37 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Stop signs are up on Linwood Avenue at the intersection with Ingersoll Street in Albion, making it a 4-way stop.

The Village Board in late February voted to add the stop signs after some residents in that neighborhood had complaints that traffic is too fast in that area, making it dangerous to people on bikes and for drivers trying to get out of their driveways.

Mayor Eileen Banker said the new 4-way stop should slow down traffic. There was previously a stop sign going north-south at the intersection. Now they have been added for east-west at the intersection north of the Erie Canal on the east side of the village.

Motorcyclists welcome for 100-mile ride Saturday for Jason Johnston scholarship

File photo by Tom Rivers: This photo shows the fender of a motorcycle that was in a benefit ride on Aug. 19, 2017 to raise money for a scholarship in memory of Jason Johnston. It was one of 106 motorcycles in the ride that day.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2021 at 3:03 pm

ALBION – Motorcyclists and all vehicles are encouraged to be a part of 100-mile trek on Saturday to raise money for a scholarship in memory of Jason Johnston, an Albion native who was died in Afghanistan on Dec. 26, 2009.

Johnston was killed by a roadside bomb in Arghandab. Johnston was a specialist and paratrooper in the Army. He was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He completed a 13-month-deployment in 2008 and left again for the war-torn country in October 2009

Participants in the ride should be at the Albion Elks Lodge at 10 a.m. on Saturday to register. The cost is $20 for drivers and $10 for passengers.

The Albion Elks Riders expect to leave the lodge by 11 a.m. for a ride that includes stops at the Alabama Hotel, Duffy’s in Mumford, the Brockport Elks Lodge and then concluding at the Albion Elks Lodge on West State Street.

Motorcyclists need to be back at the Albion Elks by 5 p.m. There will then be food and live music from Bandera, a local country music group. There is a $5 cover charge to attend the concert, with no additional charge to the motorcyclists.

“We believe very strongly in not letting go of Jason’s memory,” said Michael Jenks, sergeant at arms for the Albion Elks Riders.

The Albion Elks give out a $1,000 scholarship in Johnston’s name to a graduating senior pursuing a helping profession.

American Legion unveils memorial bench in honor of Jason Johnston

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 August 2021 at 7:24 pm

Albion native was killed in Afghanistan on Dec. 26, 2009

ALBION – The American Legion Sheret Post in Albion this afternoon unveiled a memorial bench at the post on Gaines Basin Road in honor of Jason Johnston. He was 24 when he was killed in Afghanistan on Dec. 26, 2009.

He is the only Orleans County resident killed in combat during the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jason’s father Brad Johnston, left, is a member of the Legion post in Albion. Debbie Hennekey, right, is the assistant bar manager at the post.
“We’re just waiting to remember what he did for his unit and his country,” she said during the ceremony.

Mr. Johnston said the new bench in honor of his son is “beautiful.” He thanked the Post for honoring his son’s memory and sacrifice.

Jason Johnston was killed by a roadside bomb in Arghandab, Afghanistan. Johnston was a specialist and paratrooper in the Army. He was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He completed a 13-month-deployment in 2008 and left again for the war-torn country in October 2009.

Johnston joined the local Legion post soon before his second deployment.

The Honor Guard and a crowd stands at attention while Taps was played during the ceremony. The Legion post is at the former clubhouse of a par 3 golf course on Gaines Basin Road.

The Albion Elks Riders next Saturday will do a memorial motorcycle ride covering about 100 miles with the proceeds from the annual dice run going towards a memorial scholarship given each year for an Albion graduate who is pursuing a helping profession. The Legion also gives out scholarships in Johnston’s name for graduates pursuing a career in the military.

Albion rejects proposed law which would set fees for vacant commercial buildings

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 August 2021 at 9:38 am

Village will have Planning Board and committee continue to look for ways to fill business locations

Photos by Tom Rivers: Chad Fabry (standing by door), owner of the former Swan Library site at 4 North Main St., said a proposed law from the village for vacant commercial buildings was “an unreadable piece of junk.” The meeting room was packed on Wednesday evening for a public hearing on the proposed law. Fabry said the proposed law, with fines at $1,000 or more, treats the building owners with vacancies like criminals. “You’re punishing a building owner who is already struggling,” he said.

ALBION – The Village Board, after an outcry against a proposed law assessing fees for vacant commercial buildings, voted to reject the proposed law and will start from scratch in looking for ways to fill business sites in the village.

Albion was considering a law that would have assessed a $250 fee if a commercial site went vacant for more than 30 days, with $1,000 tacked on if the site was empty for a year, $2,000 if it went a second year, $3,000 for a third year and $4,000 for each subsequent year.

The Village Board meeting was packed with building owners for a public hearing on Wednesday. Many of them thanked the board for attempting to address vacancies in the downtown and other business districts. But they said the proposed law wasn’t a good way to deal with the situation.

“I compare it to hitting a fly with a sledgehammer,” said Ron Vendetti, the village former code enforcement officer who owns a building on Bank Street.

Vendetti said the village already has laws for property maintenance that could be used to make the sites look better. The village also could do fire inspections to make sure the sites are safe, Vendetti said.

The law comes a terrible time for the property owners, who haven’t been able to evict non-paying tenants due to a moratorium on evictions and have had many of the business tenants struggle during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

Lucy and Tom Miller of Buffalo own a commercial site in Albion and they haven’t been able to rent or sell it for four years, despite trying really hard to market the former banking location.

“Albion is a good place,” Mrs. Miller said during an hour-long public hearing. “It just needs some TLC.”

She echoed the comments that a “punitive” law, costing buildings owners more money during a pandemic, is a bad idea.

“These are hard times right now,” she said. “People are suffering. Until we get through this pandemic, we should be kind to one another.”

Natasha Wasuck, owner of the Tinsel and Lockstone site just north of the canal, urged the board to approve the law. She said other communities – Medina, Le Roy, Troy and many others – have used vacant commercial registries and laws to strongly encourage the building owners to get their space occupied. The vacancies are a detriment to the other merchants in Albion, she said.

She suspected some building owners keep the space unfilled as tax write-offs. That comment drew a response from several others in attendance.

Angel Javier Jr. owns the former hardware store location on Main Street, which has been vacant for nearly two years. Javier said it is costly to bring the historic locations up to date with electricity and other needed infrastructure. He is doing much of the work gradually, with help from his family, to avoid an astronomical bill.

If he paid to have the work done, he doesn’t think he could find tenants who could pay enough rent to justify that expense. He said he has been approached by some possible tenants but they don’t want to pay enough to cover his costs for upgrading the building.

“Projects take money and ingenuity,” he said.

Javier said the building owners all are committed to Albion and want to see the community succeed with a vibrant business district.

Angel Javier Jr., who owns the former hardware store site on Main Street, shares concerns about Albion proposed law. He said building owners like himself are often paying as they go and getting a rehab of a historic site can take years of work.

Gus Revelas, owner of the former Gus’s Soda Shoppe on Main Street, said he has declined some offers to rent his building because he didn’t think those businesses would have been good for the community. His daughter, Athena Nichols, is an art teacher and she said she is looking to open a business in the location at some point.

She told the board her family – which has owned the site for more than a century – continues to pay taxes and maintain the location. They shouldn’t be penalized because the building isn’t currently used for a business, she said.

“You are creating heartache and problems for people who want to continue their business,” she said.

Other speakers questioned the wording in the law, and what they saw as unconstitutional provisions about entering the buildings without a warrant for inspections.

Corey Black, one of the downtown building owners, was among the speakers who said the proposed law was “very ambiguous” and wasn’t clear on what is considered a “vacancy.” In one section it says an unoccupied “portion” of the building could make the location considered vacant, but another spot said it applies only to the main floor of the building.

Black said the law could force building owners to be less choosey about tenants, which could be detrimental to the downtown and community.

“You can’t legislate yourselves out of a problem,” Black said. “We can’t legislate ourselves to look like Medina.”

Karen Conn, a Planning Board member, said that board had worked on the proposal for about a year, looking for ways to encourage the reuse of the buildings. She welcomed more input from the building owners to help encourage a vibrant downtown and other business districts in the village. The Planning Board’s intention wasn’t to make it more difficult for the property owners.

Michael Bonafede owns three of the historic locations in the downtown. When he and his wife Judy Koehler bought the Pratt and Day buildings about 15 years ago, the sites only had one tenant. Now they have 11 and that includes the Downtown Browsery with 40 vendors.

Bonafede said Albion has long wanted to have a more vibrant business district, but has struggled to chart a course with everyone working together.

“I admire what you’re trying to do,” Bonafede told the Village Board. “We just don’t know how to go forward as a community.”

He said “polarization” holds the community back. He said the proposed law would be a “huge hardship” on the building owners. There are other options and he cited a report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation which provided a detailed report for Albion’s Main Street about a decade ago.

Bonafede said there are many resources that would assist Albion in a resurgence.

Mayor Eileen Banker thanked the building and business owners for attending the meeting and voicing their opinions. There was an initial public hearing about the law last month and there weren’t any comments. The board decided to send a copy of the proposed law to all the property owners in the business districts in the village so they would be aware of the proposal and to give them a chance to provide input.

“I’m thrilled you are all here,” Banker told the crowd. “This is absolutely what we want. We want to make it a community effort.”

Albion proposed law on vacant commercial buildings concerns some property owners

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 August 2021 at 12:16 pm

Village holding public hearing today at 6 p.m.

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo shows Main Street in downtown Albion on an evening in May. The Village Board has proposed a law for vacant commercial buildings where property owners have to pay to be on a vacant building registry and pay annual fees if the sites remain empty.

ALBION — The Village Board wants to encourage commercial building owners to keep their sites occupied. The board sees many of the vacant sites as “unsightly, unsafe and discourages business traffic in the village,” according to a proposed law.

The village will have public hearing today at 6 p.m. to receive feedback about the law that the Village Board says will establish a process for identifying and tracking vacant commercial units, set forth responsibilities for the vacant sites, and to speed the renewed use of the buildings.

Some of the building owners have  already sent letters to the Village Board, outlying concerns that the proposed law is unconstitutional and could have the opposite intended effect of making a building too costly to own.

The proposed law applies to commercial buildings in the Central Business District, General Business District, Planned Commercial Development District, Residential Offices/Limited Business Districts or Light Industrial Districts.

The proposed law would require the owner of properties to register the site with the code enforcement officer no later than 30 days after it becomes vacant or no later than 30 days after being sent a notice from the code officer that the building needs to be registered as a vacant building.

The code officer may identify a vacant site through the routine inspection process or through notification by residents, neighborhood associations or community groups that the site may be eligible to be on the vacant building registry.

The owner of the site needs to submit a vacant building plan which could include a plan for securing and maintaining the site if it will remain vacant and a reason why it will be vacant, a rehabilitation plan that shouldn’t exceed 365 days to return the building to appropriate use, or a demolition plan and time frame for demolition.

If the site isn’t maintained, the village has grounds to remediate the building and bill the costs to the owner, revoke the rehabilitation plan, and subject the owner to fines and penalties, according to the proposed law.

The proposed law also says the building owner needs to pay a $250 registration fee to be on the vacant building registry. If the building remains vacant, the owner will be charged an annual vacant building fee of $1,000 for buildings 20,000 square feet or less, or 5 cents per square foot for sites over 20,000 square feet. That would be $1,500 for a 30,000 square foot site, for example.

Conrad Cropsey, owner of the Briggs Building in the downtown, said the proposed law violates due process and doesn’t include grandfather provisions for bringing buildings up to current code, which could make many of the historic buildings “unsalable,” he said in a letter to the board.

“You will end up owning them for taxes and fines,” Cropsey wrote in his Aug. 3 letter to the Village Board. “Your own building (Village Hall) is included if it is not fully used.”

Cropsey, an attorney, said the village also can’t legislate implied “consent” to enter a building.

“The law is that you can enter if there is an emergency to health and safety or you have established a probable cause of a violation of a valid and constitutional law,” Cropsey wrote. “Couple this with several bad and or overly broad definitions and your proposed law is a train wreck waiting for a litigator.”

Cropsey said the board has a good motive in the law but the proposal “is not the way to achieve it.”

Nathan Lyman, another attorney with a building on Main Street, also wrote to the board with his concerns. In his letter on Aug. 2 , he said downtown real estate values haven’t go up in 20 years.

Compared to 1982 when Lyman was a village trustee, the building owners today face less business activity in the downtown, a higher tax burden and “a pandemic where property owners are prohibited by executive fiat from commencing evictions if the rent is not paid.”

Lyman said the board has good intentions with the proposed law, but it comes during a challenging time for the building owners. The proposed law is also unconstitutional, he said.

Many of the buildings have multiple units and could be 75 percent occupied. But by the proposed law’s definition, the building could be required to be registered with the village as a vacant site, Lyman said.

“If I have chosen not to develop the third floor of my building because of fire code requirements, what right does the Village have to call the building vacant because that area is empty and not viable from an economic perspective?” Lyman wrote. “The same is true of Five Star Bank building, which does not utilize the space on the second and third floors of their building. The determination of the Code Enforcement Officer could easily lead to challenges based upon the subjective vagueness in definitions and selective enforcement by the Village.”

Lyman said requiring owners to register makes them give up their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure – “By registering a building, an owner consents to an Enforcement Officer inspecting the premises…”

The Village Board would be putting taxpayers at risk for costly litigation with the law, which Lyman said wouldn’t stand up in court.

The village also can’t mandate a storefront to be occupied, “or that the property owner magically generate a rent-paying tenant or else pay a penalty to the Village,” he wrote in his letter.

The village can, however, enforce health and safety regulations such as the building code, but it does not have the right to compel a property owner to lease or occupy a building, Lyman said.

“So long as the building, which is already subject to safety and fire inspection, meets those codes and pays the real property taxes, the village cannot mandate that a storefront be occupied, much less assess a fee if it is not,” he said.

Lyman said the business climate in Albion “is challenged at best.” The Covid-19 lockdowns “decimated” many small businesses in downtowns. In Albion, “the building inventory does not meet the requirements of national franchises, which is why none are located downtown,” he said.

He said putting a vacant building on a registry would likely further diminish the value of the site and could result in a lower tax assessment and hurting the village’s tax base.

“I am reminded of the adage that it is easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar,” Lyman said. “Isn’t it a wiser strategy to do positive things to help the business community which is struggling to recover from pandemic mandates, as opposed to adopting more punitive mandates?”

Albion reinstates community service requirement to graduate

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 August 2021 at 9:03 am

Class of 2022 needs 7.5 hours, instead of 30

Photo by Tom Rivers: These Albion students pick up trash on March 24 near the railroad tracks close to Platt Street. A group of students and Rotary Club members filled 23 bags with trash that day.

ALBION – The Board of Education has reinstated the community service requirement to graduate, after waiving the need for community service hours for the Class of 2020 and 2021.

The district didn’t require community service to graduate the past two school years due to Covid-19 restrictions that made it more difficult for students to volunteer with local organizations, businesses and churches.

The district has required students to have at least 30 hours of documented community service to graduate. Albion will phase in to get back to the 30 hours over the next four years.

Members of the Class of 2022, who will be seniors this coming year, will need to fulfill 25 percent of the previous requirement or at least 7.5 hours, followed by 15 hours for the Class of 2023. The standard will be at least 22.5 hours for the Class of 2024, and then the full 30 hours for the Class of 2025.

Jennifer Ashbery, the high school principal, requested the return of the community service requirement. The Board of Education on Monday voted in support of her request.

Students that meet the threshold for community service also receive a 0.5 credit. Albion has had the 30-hour community service requirement in place beginning with the Class of 1998.

Lights added to steeple at Baptist Church in Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 August 2021 at 9:48 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The 160-foot-high spire at First Baptist Church added lights about two weeks ago, and now the steeple is visible from many blocks away at night. This photo shows the spire next to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at left.

Anonymous donors paid to add lights in 12 steeple windows. Greg Smith and Richard Neal from the church installed the lights.

The church was built in 1860 at 30 West Park St. It was the tallest point in Albion until the Presbyterian Church built a 175-foot-high spire in 1875.

The Baptist church was built with Gothic elements with the steep buttresses and a tall hexagonal tower rising from the center of the front façade. It also includes Romanesque features with round-arched windows and corbel tables.

The church wanted year-round dusk-to-dawn lights in the steeple and bordering the sign at the front entrance.

“This is the first time since 1876 when Mrs. Stafford sold the neighboring property to St Joe’s that Albion First Baptist Church could easily be seen from Main Street year round!” the church posted on its Facebook page. “These lights look amazing at night! The steeple now stands out in the skyline for blocks in multiple directions! Drive by at night and check them out!”

“And, join us every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. for Worship…..we’ll leave the lights on for you!”

Bullard Park hosts outdoor movie night in Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 August 2021 at 10:26 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Monsters, Inc. is shown on a large screen at the new amphitheater at Bullard Park. It is the first of three outdoor movies planned for Bullard the first Friday night through October.

The leaders of the Albion Summer Festival organized the event. The next ones will be Sept. 3 and Oct. 1.

Three were three food vendors at the event, including Best of Tymes Party Rentals in Albion at right, The Shack and Blue Groove Coffee.

About 50 people watched the movie from lawn chairs and on blankets.

Michelle Wiseman, left, and Christine Nenni are co-owners of Best of Tymes Party Rentals. Wiseman served popcorn and Nenni made snow cones.

Albion will host first outdoor movie Friday at new amphitheater

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 August 2021 at 9:38 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: The amphitheater at Bullard Park will be used for an outdoor showing on Friday of Monsters, Inc.

ALBION – The new amphitheater at Bullard Park will be used Friday for an outdoor showing of the movie, Monsters, Inc.

The leaders of the Albion Summer Festival will be hosting the Friday movie nights. The first one will be 9 p.m. on Friday with more to follow on Sept. 3 and Oct. 1.

Zack Burgess, one of the organizers, said families are welcome to come down and watch the movie on a giant screen that will be set up at the amphitheater.

“We’re encouraging people to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on,” Burgess said.

There will be a food truck, The Shack, available for people to get something to eat.

The amphitheater opened on June 19 to an open mic concert featuring local bands and musicians.

The venue will host a scaled-down “Albion Summer Festival 6.5” musical festival on Aug. 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

State legislators tour downtown Albion to see impact of Main Street grant

Photos by Tom Rivers: Natasha Wasuck, co-owner of The Lockstone, gives State Sen. Robert Ortt and Assemblyman Steve Hawley a tour of the wedding and events center. Wasuck and her husband, John Hernandez, have turned a former auto repair site into a destination site for Albion that also includes Tinsel, an ice cream shop.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 July 2021 at 11:24 am

ALBION – State Sen. Robert Ortt and Assemblyman Steve Hawley recently toured downtown Albion, including four of businesses that will be receiving part of a Main Street grant to help upgrade their historic buildings.

Albion was approved for $311,079 and that was divvied up among 10 property owners for building improvement projects. The grants will fund up to 75 percent of the projects, which need to be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.

The state allowed a maximum award of $50,000 per building owner for non-residential projects with residential projects eligible for up to $100,000.

Assemblyman Hawley takes a photo with his phone while in the Pratt Opera House on the third floor. A state grant will help with some restorative work at the site.

Albion’s 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 property owners have until December 2022 to complete the projects as part of the grant.

Hawley and Ortt were given tours of projects planned for The Lockstone, the Pratt Opera House, apartments above the Hustl House (former Albion Fitness Center) and Krantz Furniture.

Ortt praised the property owners for their investment and commitment to Albion’s downtown. He and Hawley both said they are pleased to see state funds going to small-town business owners.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, left, and State Sen. Robert Ortt tour The Lockstone, which has been turned into a wedding and events center. A state grant will help the owners make additional improvements to the building.

The grants include:

  • The Lockstone – owned by John Hernandez and Natasha Wasuck at 160 North Main St., approved for $18,750 towards replacing a soffit, repairing masonry, putting in new front doors, commercial heaters and a mural.
  • Morrison Realty – owned by James Theodorakos at 132 North Main St., approved for $21,017 towards new flooring on the first floor, waiting the exterior and front trim repairs.
  • Krantz Furniture – Linda Smith, owner at 129-131 North Main St., approved for $64,776 to scrape and repoint brick, prime and paint the exterior, put in four commercial double doors, replace front stairs to upstairs apartment, replace windows, upgrade drywall and paint apartments, upgrade electric and plumbing.
  • Day and Day Building – Michael Bonafede and Judith Koehler, owner of 114-116 North Main St., approved for $36,880 for the site that includes the Downtown Browsery, Albion Bible Baptist Church, and the historic Grand Army of the Republic post. The work includes second floor renovation including reattaching the historic plaster medallions in the GAR room, restoring floors, installing a HVAC system. With the building, Bonafede and Koehler want to install steps and improve egress to the third floor door, weatherize east and west windows, construct protective railings around stairway, lighting, re-coat roof, repair and paint the fire escape, complete third floor bathroom, seal and preserve the historic plank west wall.


Michael Bonafede shows State Sen. Rob Ortt the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Room  in the Day and Day Building. Bonafede wants to reattach the historic plaster medallions in the GAR room, restore the floors and install a HVAC system.

  • Pratt Opera House – Michael Bonafede and Judith Koehler, owner of 118-120 North Main St., approved for $23,830 for the site that includes the Downtown Browsery, Bookery, Kylie’s Salon, Red Check Rustic, pottery studio and a bakery office. The funding will go towards recoating the roof, repairing east parapet east wall, re-installing vintage signage at ticket booth, new rear door, new entrance awning, repairing north brick wall, opera house stage renovations, refurbishing six arch-top decorative windows with stained glass.
  • Hair Fantasy – Corey and Marilyn Black, owners at 55-57-59 North Main St., approved for $11,250 to repoint and replace brick as needed, and repaint window frames.
  • Lyman & Lyman – Nathan Lyman, owner at 45-51 North Main St., approved for $38,277 for a site that includes Lyman & Lyman attorney offices, Laura Loxley, Milk & Honey Boutique and one residential unit. The money will go towards two ADA-compliant bathrooms, ADA entrance at back of the building, replacing back windows, new VFR cooling systems, upgrade electric, replace apartment flooring, new LED lights, improve signage, and upgrade residential bathroom.
  • Dance Reflections by Miss Heather – Jared and Heather Hapeman, owners at 50-52 North Main St., approved for $11,616 to go towards new ceiling in studio, 12 windows rebuilt in current frames, bathroom remodel and office remodel.
  • Albion Agencies (Seaway Insurance Agencies) – Bill Bixler, owner at 30 North Main St., approved for $16,753 to replace roof and make gutter repairs, rebuild side entrance stairs and upgrade HVAC.
  • Apartments above The Hustl House – John Brabon, owner at 10-12 North Main St., approved for $67,930 for five apartments, putting in new walls, electric, plumbing, HVAC, bathroom, drywall, trim and flooring, lighting, smoke detectors, and painting the apartments.
  • Village of Albion – approved for $47,613 for streetscape improvements at 19 North Main St, which includes extending existing retaining wall, adding parking spaces to municipal lot, picnic tables and trash receptacles.

Marti’s on Main art gallery reopens at former Cooperative Extension in Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 July 2021 at 3:42 pm

Building turned into art showcase by Kim and Neal Muscarella

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Marti’s on Main celebrated its grand opening on Friday evening at the former Cornell Cooperative Extension building at 20 South Main St. About 125 people attended the three-hour open house.

Kim Martillotta Muscarella, third from left, and her husband Neal Muscarella (second from right), greet guests David Purdy and Monica Beck at the grand opening.

The Muscarellas transformed the interior of the building into an art studio and gallery. The open house was by invitation only for local artists and known art appreciators. Mrs. Muscarella said other tours are available by appointment. She can be reached at (585) 589-6715 for more information.

“Mr. Anderson” is a portrait of cat by Chris Versteeg that is displayed on the stairway. Muscarella has work from about a dozen artists on display.

Muscarella likes to showcase artwork throughout the building, including the stairway leading to the top floor.

Kim Martillotta Muscarella has many of her own pieces on display, including the large acrylic painting of “Tall Flowers.”

Monica Beck and David Purdy take a look at artwork — “Green Fun” and “Succulent Girl” — by Kim Martillotta Muscarella.

Purdy, a former professional interior and exterior painter for 22 years, said the Muscarellas did top-notch work in painting the rooms with such vibrant colors.

“They did a phenomenal job,” Purdy said. “It’s nearly flawless.”

One of the guests checks out the art in a room inside the historic building.

Muscarella wanted to open the site to the public sooner, but waited due to concerns and restrictions with Covid-19.

The former Cornell Cooperative Extension building was most recently used an outreach center for the Episcopal Church in Albion. The building was originally a house built in the 1830s.

Muscarella watched the site decline for many years, with little activity inside the doors of one of the prominent buildings in the historic Courthouse Square.

For about a decade she ran Marti’s on Main, an art gallery and studio at her home at 229 South Main St. But that site, which was half of her house, was cramped to display art and accommodate groups of people.

On a whim in December 2019, she decided to look at the old Extension building, which had been for sale for years and was listed by her friend Jim Theodorakos of Morrison Realty. Muscarella and her husband, Neal, were given a tour of the building. (The Extension moved in 2007 to a new building at the 4-H fairgrounds in Knowlesville.)

The walls in the old building were all painted a very pale yellow. The floors covered in green and red carpet or asphalt tiles.

The couple also noted the high ceilings, big rooms and lots of wall space. They decided to take on the building, and give it a new life as an art studio and gallery.

Joe Martillotta (who is Kim Martillotta Muscarella’s brother) and Jim Babcock chat while in a room with many of Muscarella’s unusual sculptures.

Muscarella has art from many local artists on display, including an abstract painting at right by Jim Fiegel. He uses a combination of acrylic, enamel, and water-based paint. He paints on Plexiglass and his paintings are curved. He also creates his own wooden frames and has LED lights behind the Plexiglass.

Muscarella prefers art that is outside the norm.