OLEAN — The city’s Urban Renewal Agency will soon begin accepting bids to redevelop the Manufacturers Hanover, Marra and Siegel buildings.
“We are expecting to indeed put out a request for proposals (RFP) this week,” said Mary George, an agency staff member. “We’re hoping this will be a quick process.”
The RFP will be posted online Friday on the city’s website for interested developers to review. Mrs. George added she also plans to reach out to area development firms to let them know of the project’s availability.
The proposal request will be similar to one the agency put out two years ago when it last accepted bids for the projects. It will, however, have one major difference, Mrs. George said.
“We would be willing to entertain the idea to demolish the Marra buildings to accommodate more parking,” she said.
Those interested in the project will have 20 days to submit their plans for the old bank and its neighboring buildings. Submissions will likely be reviewed by URA members in September during their monthly meeting. From there, the agency will schedule meetings with potential developers to further discuss their proposals.
Within the last month, two interested developers have toured the three properties at the corner of State and Union streets, Mayor Linda Witte told the Times Herald on Wednesday. She declined to name the developer, but did indicate both are from Western New York.
“They are getting back to us now for more information on the buildings,” Mayor Witte said. “These developers do have other projects in the area that we know of, so it’s not like they’re new to this kind of work.”
While both developers have some ideas for what they could potentially do with the properties, Mrs. George said neither indicated any specific plans.
The visits from both developers are a welcomed sign that the three buildings may still become a hub for activity in downtown Olean, Mayor Witte said.
“It’s very encouraging to see there are still developers that are interested in the project,” Mayor Witte said. “It’s been so frustrating to see those buildings sit there year after year with nothing happening. Something needs to happen with those buildings soon because we don’t want to see them get to a point where we’re stuck with limited options as to what we can do with them.”
The upcoming call for proposals is the second time the Urban Renewal Agency has sought out a developer to bring new life to the empty bank and Marra and Siegel buildings.
In August 2011, the agency named Allegany-based Kinley Corp. and its partner firm, Ross Wilson and Associates, as the preferred developer of the three buildings. In their proposal for the properties, the real estate development firms planned $10 million in renovations to the three buildings to create a mixture of retail and office space as well as apartments. The proposal also called for the demolition of the former Olean Art Space and a one-story, freestanding building behind the Marra buildings.
But in June, Jason Crisafulli, president and CEO Kinley Corp., formally cut the contracting firm’s ties with the Manny Hanny redevelopment project. In a previous interview with the Times Herald, Mr. Crisafulli said he and officials at Ross Wilson encountered many delays in trying to move forward with the project, primarily in working with the State Historic Preservation Office to have the three buildings included in a new historic district. Such a district would have opened the project up to more grant funding and tax credits.
During the time Kinley Corp. was involved in the project, the contractor and URA did complete some work to clean out and fix up the buildings.
In April 2012, crews from R.E. Kelley Building Restoration and Specialty Contractors inspected the exteriors of the Manufacturers Hanover and Marra buildings after a softball-sized piece of masonry fell off the Manufacturers Hanover building in March of that year.
At the beginning of this year, the agency had a one-story building behind the Marra buildings torn down. By demolishing the small structure — which at one time was home to a restaurant, hair salon and IBM office — the agency opened up more space for parking.
During the URA’s July meeting, the agency approved having the doors of two elevators in the Manny Hanny sealed shut on each floor of the seven-story building to prevent anyone from accessing the elevator shafts. That work was completed last week, Mrs. George told the URA at its meeting Wednesday morning.
(Contact reporter Christopher Michel at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @OTHChris.)