Revitalizing Fredonia

Fredonia to apply for production hub grant

OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox The former Card Seed Co. building at 50 W. Main St., Fredonia.

Developers are aiming to breathe life into a vacant warehouse facility in downtown Fredonia in the near future — with a little help from New York state.

The Fredonia Village Board on Monday unanimously authorized Mayor Athanasia Landis to submit a consolidated funding application on behalf of Venture Productions for funds through the New York Main Street Downtown Anchor Project program, at zero cost or liability to the village. The hope is to convert the former Card Seed Co. building at 50 W. Main St. into a theatrical performance hub, dubbed “Main Street Studios and Village Lofts.”

“What I envision there is a theatrical performance area that is also versatile enough to be changed over to a film studio, as well as to a music venue,” Ted Sharon of Venture Productions explained to board members. “We’re in talks right now with a friend of mine … who is the reason that the Buffalo Film Festival exists the way it exists right now and (has) become incredibly popular, and he’s willing to do the same thing with me here in Fredonia. I wanted that for years; I wanted the Fredonia Film Festival.”

Sharon added Venture Productions has also envisioned a jazz festival in the back parking lot, with the building as the nerve center.

The back side of 50 W. Main St. is 60 feet by 40 feet on both the first and second floors. The bottom floor would play host to theater, film and music activities, as well as gatherings of various kinds. The top floor — which only has two steel pillars in the floor as obstructions — could be rented out as a yoga studio, dance studio, martial arts studio and/or class space.

OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox Ted Sharon of Venture Productions.

“My desire — as I’m sure (the board’s) is, as well — is feet on the street that are traveling in downtown, to downtown, from other places, (marking) Fredonia as a destination,” Sharon noted. “The goal is to keep that young talent (from the State University of New York at Fredonia) here in the area. The building really provides kind of all the infrastructure we would need for a thriving production hub, and the grant would drastically reduce the amount of time that it will take for me to get there, and I’ll crawl up a mountain to make this happen, but if there are state funds out there … then we’ll do everything we can to demonstrate to the state that they should invest in Fredonia like we have.”

As an added bonus to 50 W. Main St., there are six apartment units located inside the building, as well as two storefronts. One of those storefronts houses Karen’s Hairem hair salon, which will stay put. Sharon pointed out there are discussions to put either a dance supply shop or a bicycle shop in the other storefront.

“The current renters there, their lease will expire next May, I believe,” he mentioned.

Dr. Landis expressed her excitement in assisting Venture Productions in its latest venture.

“I think it’s exactly what we need — the first step in downtown revitalization,” she remarked.

Nathan Aldrich, community economic development specialist with the Local Economic Development Initiative of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, explained the New York Main Street Downtown Anchor Project program will cover up to 75 percent of the total project cost (not including acquisition) between $100,000 and $500,000.

“So we’re looking at approximately $350,000 to $400,000 grants,” he said. “The state requires a municipality or non-profit to apply on the building owner/developer’s behalf. The village acts as a pass-through agency for those funds.”

The LED initiative is committed to assisting the village with grant administration, Aldrich stated.

Trustee Douglas Essek praised the collaboration between the village and Sharon on this project.

“I really am thrilled to see the partnership between public and private investment and the interest, possibly, from the Buffalo area coming down this way,” he commented.

Venture Productions is a start-up video production company that will be graduating from the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator in the city of Dunkirk. The company has created two jobs, with the potential to create additional jobs as it develops the warehouse facility into a hub for arts and cultural performances and events.

The grant application is due July 28.

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