Dan Hust | Democrat
DEVELOPER TOMMY TING makes a point about his Bitter End project while Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins listens.
Monticello, developers scurry to meet grant deadline
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Monticello’s Downtown Revitalization Project may or may not be as large as village officials hoped.
On Wednesday, three developers presented their plans to the village board, all angling to be included in a $2.5 million grant application to the Restore NY program one that needs a list of projects from the village by today.
Though revitalization project manager Glenn Gidaly estimated the state will give no more than $1.8 million to the village (and the program likely won’t survive into next year), the village “needs to run through the door” that is now open.
But that’s dependent on the private developers, only one of whom appeared ready to submit the needed documentation for the highly competitive grant.
Steve Richman and Martin Joseph, representing United Realtors Group, said their project has already had its site plan formally reviewed by the village planning board.
The group plans to demolish a series of buildings along the north side of Broadway, including the old Rialto Theatre, and replace them with seven new structures that would house retail and office space. (The Rialto’s landmark marquee would be retained.)
The property they own extends behind the Broadway buildings to North Street, and in that space they’d construct a 50,000-square-foot assisted living facility. The project is expected to generate 75-100 jobs, they said.
While they’re eager to obtain a share of the Restore NY grant, Richman said the group is “going forward with this project regardless of the grant.”
He had the required $4,000 escrow check ready for the village as part of that promise.
Tommy Ting, however, wasn’t at that point on Wednesday. The developer of the old Sedlack Building on the north side of Broadway, Ting is working with The Bitter End owner Paul Colby to bring a branch of the famous Greenwich Village musical entertainment venue to Monticello.
“I don’t feel comfortable,” he told the board, complaining that he had been told the grant was no longer available then, all of a sudden, documentation was needed right away.
Gidaly tried to clarify that the grant’s funding was held up due to state budget woes but had finally been released in the last three weeks. The village must tell the state by today whether it intends to participate, though a pre-application is not due for another month (and the full application isn’t due until May 4).
While the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency and the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development support Monticello’s bid for a share of the Restore NY grant, their officials have stressed to the village that proposed beneficiaries have to have projects well-defined, well-capitalized and well along in the permitting and approval process.
“And when the projects are substantially complete [95 percent],” said Gidaly, “... only then can the village draw on the money for this.”
And therein lay the concern regarding Ting’s project, which has yet to appear formally before the planning board.
Ting, who has been working on the project since last May, frustratedly told officials he thought the village board needed to agree to it first.
But when asked by Gidaly to provide square footage and other hard figures, Ting insisted on speaking about the A-list celebrities that The Bitter End has attracted in New York City and would likely attract in Monticello.
“How many people do you want to bring?” he asked the board, claiming he could bring thousands of tourists at a time to Broadway.
But since planning board approval is needed by the May 4 application deadline, village officials urged Ting to get the site plan and other required documentation to the planning board right away.
“You need to have a plan where everything is organized,” Trustee Victor Marinello told him.
But the next planning board meeting is March 24, and Village Clerk Edith Schop said she needs the info right away in order to submit it to the planning board the needed 10 days in advance.
Ting said he had submitted such documentation way back in July, but Schop said it had never formally made its way to the board.
Trustee Carmen Rue lamented that “no one has been communicating with Mr. Ting,” but Mayor Gordon Jenkins said that wasn’t true.
He and former Village Manager John Barbarite, who was present Wednesday, confirmed that they had championed the project but had also told Ting to submit “concrete plans” to the planning board.
“Tommy, you’ve got to step it up here,” Jenkins remarked.
Ting said he would do what is necessary, since his project is dependent upon the Restore NY grant to continue.
A surprise third developer appeared before the village board Wednesday, though like the United Realtors Group, Scott Vrancich said he was not waiting for the grant to begin work.
“We’re going to develop the building,” he said, referencing the old Strong Building (more familiar to residents as the former home of Napoli Pizzeria).
Already two months along in his plans, Vrancich said he wants to renovate the space for commercial, mixed retail, professional office and artist loft space.
“I think all of these projects should happen,” observed Partnership Board Chair Suzanne Rhulen-Loughlin.
But she reminded the small crowd that the grant is extremely competitive.
“We want to see our name, Monticello, be a recipient,” she said, “so we want to submit projects that have the best chance of success.”
Since Restore NY targets economically distressed communities, Gidaly affirmed that Monticello is already well placed to win some funding.
“Bad is good,” he remarked with some irony. “... The State of New York considers Monticello to be a severely distressed area.”
He said it doesn’t matter how many developers sign on so long as they’re under the umbrella of the Downtown Revitalization Project and can afford to complete the project without public monies.
The county is prepared to write the grant application at no cost to the village, said Gidaly, though Monticello which will oversee the funds’ distribution will have to match 10 percent of whatever the grant award turns out to be.
“We think we have something to work with here, but we really need to have a united front,” he told the board. “The state is having a sale, and either we want to buy or we don’t want to buy.”