Manny Hanny

Sunlight shines through the scaffolding of the Manny Hanny at the corner of State and Union streets on Monday.

OLEAN — Another hurdle has been jumped to bring the Manny Hanny back to life.

The city of Olean Planning Board approved the $12 million site plan by Savarino Companies to redevelop 101 and 107 N. Union St. — the long vacant Manny Hanny and former Siegel’s shoe store buildings.

The 14-month project being undertaken by the Buffalo-based developer includes 23 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at market rate, and just over 11,000 square feet of office space and retail space ground floor for retail.

“Congratulations on being able to move forward,” said board Chairman Tom Barnes after the unanimous vote. “Thanks for investing in our city.”

The roughly 5,000 feet on the old bank floor of the Manny Hanny would likely be food and beverage — a restaurant like candidate.

“”We feel that’s the best use for that space,” said Courntey Cox, lead on the project for Savarino. “We don’t have a specific tenant for that space right now. There’s conversations ongoing with interested users.”

Sam Savarino, CEO of the developer, told the board in June that the project would take roughly 14 months to build, breathing new life into a building that has sat vacant since the mid-1990s. In February, he told the city Urban Renewal Agency that he believes the sale can close by June if the restoration work gets rolling early enough.

He told the IDA in May that a July start date is possible due to COVID-19 related delays.

The building is owned by the URA, which received a pair of state grants to cover $750,000 in facade and stabilization work before it is transferred to private ownership. The project originally included a roof replacement, but URA officials and developers agreed that the focus should be on exterior restorations and stabilization.

That project went out to bid in May, with scaffolding erected around the building in June.

Keri Kerper, coordinator of the city’s Department of Community Development, told board members Tuesday that the project is moving along quickly and the final stages to begin shortly.

In May, the Cattaraugus County IDA considered tax breaks for the project — the fourth time the IDA has eyed such breaks for a developer in the last 25 years. The firm filed an application for sales tax, mortgage recording tax and property tax exemptions worth an estimated $1.1 million.

Savarino said the redevelopment project will be funded through private investment, $2 million from the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative award, around $7 million in federal New Market Tax Credits, and historic preservation tax credits. Plans to include low-income housing — partially funded by Low-Income Housing Tax Credits — were scrapped in 2019 for the market-rate apartments.

The facade, Savarino said, will remain virtually identical to the seven-story building generations of Oleanders have come to know, with the historic preservation credits limiting exterior changes.

The building opened for business as First National Bank on April 1, 1915. Passing through several owners via bank mergers, the final tenant — Manufacturers Hanover Bank — moved out by 1994, with the building sitting vacant for more than two decades.

Following several ownership changes, the property was purchased by the URA in 2010. Shortly thereafter a firm attempted to develop the site, but pulled out. It took four requests for proposal between 2011 and 2017 before Savarino stepped forward.

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)