Jun 06, 2007 Eagle Newspapers Uncategorized
Familiar face around Marcellus
By Rick Seltzer
William Lucchetti stepped from the doorway of the Marcellus Village Office without waiting for the heavy rain to slow. Carting no umbrella, he walked swiftly down the block to one of the businesses he owns in the village, Ja Spa & Fitness.
Inside, he pulled off his tie and sports coat, leaving him in a shirt and jeans, and cracked open an energy drink. Taking a sip from the can, he began to tour the gym.
He walked through a room with exercise bikes and jokingly called it the “Armstrong Room.” He explained that one room used to be a garage before he renovated it and filled it with weights. Then, he stepped on to a set of grated metal stairs that descended in the corner of the gym. Underneath the steps, a waterfall splashed onto a stone well.
“This is one of the original wells in Marcellus,” he said, raising his voice with pleasure. “We found it while we were building the door outside.”
The developer started buying and renovating buildings like the Crown Mill, which houses the Ja Spa, in Marcellus in 2003. He was elected a village trustee in 2006. When he took office that April, he also assumed the role of deputy mayor. Now, he is shaping the Marcellus village government as well as its buildings.
The new Lester Norris?
Lucchetti declined to discuss his net worth or the amount of money he has spent in the village, but he said the Marcellus office of his company, MacReport.Net, handles “literally billions of dollars of publicly traded companies.”
MacReport.Net is an Internet-based media company that serves businesses, according to its Web site.
Only one other person in the village’s history has developed such a large number of properties as Lucchetti, said Peg Nolan, president of the Marcellus Historical Society.
“The only other thing I know of is when Lester Norris bought several of the mill houses,” she said. “The mills closed and houses were left vacant. They would have all just deteriorated if he hadn’t bought them and fixed them up and resold them.”
Norris worked in the area fire department, acted as the local undertaker and was elected mayor in 1955, said Nolan. In 1963 he bought nine mills and began redeveloping them.
Now, Lucchetti is developing the downtown area.
“When William came to Marcellus a few years ago, much of the downtown was starting to be dilapidated,” said Mayor Michael Plochocki. “Mr. Lucchetti has given the village a makeover with an eye toward the historic nature of the buildings.
William is a very driven individual in all that he does. He’s really involved in the businesses as well as the government.”
As a trustee, Lucchetti said he likes to look at parts of the village in person and take part in activities, rather than make decisions from behind a desk.
At the April 23 Board of Trustees meeting, Lucchetti was the first to emerge from the mayor’s office when the meeting started at 7 p.m. During the meeting, volunteered to help organize an Earth Day cleanup. He said he wanted to inspect one resident’s trees before making a decision on whether the village should spray properties to stop forest tent caterpillar infestations.
Monitoring village police is one of Lucchetti’s duties as trustee. He said he likes to visit the department, and wanted to make sure it was running smoothly after Plochocki suspended Police Chief David Wilkinson for investigation following a “double-dipping” scandal.
Lucchetti rode beside Officer Tom Kwasnaza in a police car on patrol between 4 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. one Friday night. He said he expects to ride with officers periodically to see how they patrol the village.
“He’s very active in advocating for the police department, whether that be for weapons or law and order,” Plochocki said.
Lucchetti said he wanted to become a trustee so he could become more involved in Marcellus.
“I spend most of my free time with my daughter,” he said. “That’s probably one of the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing in this community. She goes to nursery school here. I do this for her. It was an extension. It was me wanting to do more in the community.”
Free time is something that doesn’t come often for Lucchetti. He said he usually wakes up between 4 and 4:30 a.m. and sometimes doesn’t fall asleep until 1 a.m. He also said he hasn’t taken a vacation in three years.
“Being trustee and deputy mayor, it takes a lot of my free time,” he said after the recent trustees meeting. “I work weekends. I’m always on the phone. I literally came right from work tonight.”
Though busy, Lucchetti has never missed a meeting, according to Village Clerk-Treasurer Gary March.
Plochocki said that Lucchetti doesn’t give business interests a chance to sway his opinion on an issue in front of the board.
“Every once in a blue moon, a potential conflict arises,” Plochocki said. “Mr. Lucchetti recuses himself from those votes. He’s been very good at doing that.”
A love affair
Lucchetti grew up on Long Island and said his family was poor. Although he had been visiting Marcellus to see his grandmother since he was a child, Lucchetti said his love affair with the village began when he was 14.
“I used to read the real-estate magazines. I was fascinated by real estate,” he said. “I found a beautiful home with a pool. For a kid who grew up poor, it’s a fascinating thing to have a swimming pool.”
That home was in Marcellus. It remained on the market for three years, until Lucchetti’s father, Vito Lucchetti, decided to move to the village — an idea that didn’t yet appeal to his son.
“I remember I came home, and my dad turned around and said ‘I’ve bought your dream home,'” Lucchetti said. “I was working I was like ‘You guys are moving. Not me.'”
It was not the last time his parents would pull him toward Marcellus. His father developed a progressive illness, and when the elder Lucchetti’s condition periodically worsened, the son had to leave New York City for two to three months at a time. After his father died in 2004, Lucchetti decided to invest in the community.
“At the end of the day, I had to get out of the city,” he said. “It was a lot after 9/11. I was a country boy at heart. There was not a lot going on (in Marcellus).
Businesses closed early, and I thought it’d be cool to get things going.”
To get things going, Lucchetti formed the Marcellus Group and began renovating buildings downtown. He owns at least three businesses in the village, including MacReport.Net, the Marcellus Group and Ja Spa & Fitness.
Lucchetti said he tries to be considerate of tenants when he renovates a property.
“I always make sure people find housing,” he said. “We never throw people out on the street. And I’ve evicted people.
It’s September and I let people stay until December. You try and work with people and it does come back.”
He also likes to personally manage the redevelopment of his properties, Lucchetti said.
“I take pride in it, I really do,” he said. “Right down to the smallest detail, I micromanage. I love it.”
All that involvement takes Lucchetti’s time and makes him hard to contact. He dodges the media. He admits that the inbox on his voicemail is often full. At the board meeting, he told a village resident to call him about setting up a time for the Earth Day cleanup.
“If you can get him on the phone,” joked another resident.
Lucchetti said he did not want to talk about specific family members, but that his family is extremely important to him. He has many relatives in Central New York who often meet in Marcellus, he said.
“Sundays we go to my mom’s house and we have spaghetti and meatballs with the whole family,” he said. “We start at one and eat till four.”
Lucchetti likes to talk about his buildings more than he likes to talk about himself. Unless some issue spikes his interest in the future, he has no aspirations to run for any office other than trustee, he said. He then quickly changed the subject and said Plochocki should eventually try to move on to higher offices.
“I’m not big on myself,” he said. “There are so many better people to write about than me.”
For now, Lucchetti said his plans revolve around developing Marcellus.
“My problem is I dive into something and I’ve got to see it through,” he said. “A lot of people say I’ll never retire.”
Rick Seltzer is a student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. This article is part of a series of profiles written by Newhouse students for Eagle Newspapers. To read the entire series, go online to cnylink.com and click on “Familiar faces.”