Funds secured for Walden facelift
A few businesses in the Village of Walden have received a good shot in the arm by a grant obtained by the Walden Community Council, enabling a wide range of renovations from small repairs to extensive remodels.
“The Walden Main Street Grant committee has helped secure necessary funds, which has done much to promote economic vitality in our village,” said Walden Mayor Brian Maher.
At the end of 2011, the council was advised that it had been awarded a $337,338 grant to rehabilitate and revitalize residential mixed-use buildings and streetscapes in the eastern half of the village’s commercial business district by the Office of Community Renewal, NYS Housing Trust Fund Corporation. Businesses in that area were given the opportunity to apply for a slice of the grant.
According to Mary Ann Landolina, of the Walden Community Council (WCC), five of the 11 properties that applied for the grant have completed their projects.
“The renovations and rehabilitations of several of our downtown buildings that were assisted by the New York Main Street Grant Program have added a much needed spark to our downtown,” said Village Manager John Revella. “The projects that have been completed so far have had a great impact on the overall look and feel of our village.”
One of the most visible completed projects is the Walden Diner, located at 23 Orange Avenue where co-owners Gus Panagiotopoulos and Savas Karasaridis leapt at the opportunity to take part in the grant.
“It allowed them to make much needed renovations,” said Landolina. “Their grand re-opening was held in February and they have received positive reactions from both customers and employees.”
Karasaridis said the renovations were extensive, including new carpet, tables, booths, counter tiles, cooler, walk-in refrigerators, outside awnings, back deck, paving, exterior painting, updating of the bathrooms and more.
“I think it was a good investment overall,” said Karasaridis, explaining that they had received $50,000 in grant funding, but had to put in about another $100,000 to make the project happen. “People have responded, ‘Great job!’ I tell them to tell people to come, so I can pay the bill.”
When Karasaridis took over the diner 15 years ago, he expanded it, adding a side dining area, updating the bathrooms and adding seating. It is now at 120 seats, including stools, which brings it to twice the original number of seating.
The only thing left to do for the project is to add a couple awnings in the front.
“Would I have spent that much money without the grant? I don’t know,” said Karasaridis, noting that the economy is bad right now and it is evident everywhere you look as many business owners are unable to get money from banks to do these kinds of projects.
Karasaridis expressed his gratitude to Landolina, the Walden Community Council and the Village Board for making his project possible through the grant.
“This is good for the town, for people and us,” said Karasaridis.
“It’s an investment for everybody and looks good for the town.”
Other properties whose projects have been completed include the Gridley-Horan Funeral Home and Sohns Appliance Center, both of which entailed relatively minor work. Landolina stated that the remaining projects are either under contract or in the process of accepting bids for the work to be done—all of which needs to be completed by Dec. 15.
One such project is the Walden Mall, located off Route 52. The small strip mall is home to the Hudson Valley Conservatory, a convenience store and a pizza parlor.
The property owner, Franco Fredanza, is planning an extensive facelift and upgrade including new entrances and doors, parking lot lights, interior lights and doors, and a new front façade.
“To bring it up to modern times is basically what I want,” said Fredanza, referring to the project as a “full cosmetic exterior facelift.”
The structure is a former grocery store that was later converted into a mini-mall that has housed various shops including a hardware store and the former office of the Wallkill Valley Times.
The project is slated to receive $30,888 in grant funds and Fredanza himself will need to put in the remaining balance of the project’s total cost, about $75,000. The remodel does not entail any change in tenants and all of the businesses will stay open during the process.
The Walden Mall project is waiting on some final reviews by the Planning Board, according to Fredanza, after which he has a contract ready to move forward and make it happen.
Fredanza thanked the WCC and the Village Board for providing the opportunity to improve the property and the community as a whole.
“It’s a great opportunity not just for us as business people, but to help revitalize places that need help and support, and give back to the community,” said Fredanza. “It’s great that they were able to bring money from the government to revitalize these places.”
The grant funds are not only going to businesses in Walden, but also to a village property in need of a boost–the McKinley monument parcel. The triangular slice of property in the middle of the village is on a main thoroughfare, located at the intersection of State Routes 208 and 52. After a great deal of effort, the property is set to be revitalized under the streetscape portion of the grant.
“This property is scheduled to begin early to mid-July with an estimated completion date of mid-August,” said Landolina. “The stone wall around the parcel will be replaced.”
The bid opening was to be held on June 20. The project entails a new design that softens the turn so that traffic will not destroy all their hard work as vehicles try to negotiate the turn. According to Revella, the actual start date of the work depends on state approvals, as the contractor has to obtain a permit.
Revella said the village had been talking about the move for years and thought it would be beneficial to move forward now as it fell under the scope of the grant.
Even as the village is making strides forward at that intersection, the gas station situated across the street from the monument has suddenly been closed up. According to village officials, the owner of the property had a seven year lease with Hess and elected not to renew the lease, forcing the company to remove its pumps and tanks and leave.
The property now sits vacant in the center of the village. While there isn’t much the village can do to change that, they are moving forward with work on the monument parcel and are encouraged by the efforts being made by other village businesses.
“The community appreciates the work and it has [spurred] others to take the initiative and begin projects of their own,” said Revella. “The economic impact will continue for years to come. The work of the Walden Community Council has done wonders for the image and availability of retail and residential space in our village center. We thank them and the state for implementing and coordinating this beneficial program.”
By RACHEL COLEMAN