Aug 07, 2010 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Take a walk down Main Street in Camillus and chances are you won’t get a sense of prosperity. Take the same walk with Mayor Mike Montero and you’ll come away feeling hopeful.
Montero has a vision for the village, one that is not without action. It all started when Richard Kirk purchased the building at 55 Main Street just when the village was about to condemn it. Kirk, a resident of Skaneateles who owns apartments in Camillus, is in the process of restoring the building to what it looked like in 1890.
“Once we saw the architectural design of what it was going to be, and once it starting being conceptualized and the carpenters were out and building it, that was a lot of motivation for me to go around and talk to business owners and tell them, this is what’s available,” Montero said. “Some of them even called me and said, ‘How do I become a part of this?'”
The storefronts of 53 and 55 Main are being restored with help from an Onondaga Community Development grant. The interior of 55 Main St. is being renovated with $175,000 from a NY Restore Grant.
Kirk is in the process of transforming what was once a shifting heap of moldy wood (55 Main) into a formidable business called Krabby Kirk’s Saloon. The Saloon will be a barbeque style restaurant and bar, serving “smoked ribs, pulled pork, smoked sausage — anything we can smoke, we’re gonna smoke,” Kirk said.
The county grant program’s on-staff architect designed the building and CDwyer Construction is now working on the exterior, using modern materials to recreate 55 Main’s 1890 look. CDwyer is also installing a stage in back where bands will perform.
Kirk and his son, also Richard, have cleared more than 80 truckloads of old materials from the building since starting work in December and have begun to install a new framework for the building, held together by oak pegs. Kirk hopes to have work on 55 Main completed before snowfall.
Kirk just bought 57 Main Street, which will become an extension of Krabby Kirk’s. He plans to revamp its look to make it consistent with 55 Main. He is also in contract to buy a handful of other properties on Main Street.
Montero spares no harsh words when speaking of 55 Main before Kirk got his hands on it.
“Literally you would drive down here and you would think a bomb hit the place,” he said, “and it’s slowly transforming into something really nice.”
Kirk’s interest in improving the village of Camillus does not stop at 55 Main.
“I was born and raised in the village,” Kirk said. “When I was a kid the village was a viable place. It was a nice place to be; it’s gone downhill ever since.”
Walking the walk
Since becoming mayor in February, Montero has become a leading force for the improvement of the village’s visual appeal. His wife, Jennifer, convinced him that as owner of The String Corner on Main Street, he needed to lead by example.
“We just had our whole building repainted,” Montero said. “I was actually going do it next year, and Jennifer said, ‘You have to kind of do it now if you want everyone else to do their buildings,’ and she was absolutely right.”
One improvement project that’s been talked about since before Montero took office is the plan to turn the vacant Camillus Cutlery building into a commercial strip with apartments above. This would be funded using $2.3 million of a Restore NY grant. Work on “Camillus Mills” was meant to begin in June, but developer Tom Blair has been quiet about progress.
“The holding company that owns it in Texas put it back on the market,” Montero said. “They’re entertaining other bids for potential buyers.”
The project may be at a halt, but the grant money is not going away. The grant goes with the property, as long as the construction stays within the project’s original scope — residential on top, professional space on the bottom.
“So as long as that’s kept anyone can buy it and take advantage of $2.3 million,” Montero said.
Laying the bricks
An appealing visual storefront is not complete without a sidewalk to match. To repair Main Street’s sidewalk, Montero got creative with funding. Montero found $5,000 of unused village website development grant funding from former mayor Tom Grant’s run and successfully applied with the senate to have it reassigned as a beautification grant. The website that went up under Grant, and is still running, was created using a free service.
The freed up funds will go to bricks for the sidewalk, and the town has agreed to help out with their installation. Montero recently put the beautification funds toward having the trees on Main Street pruned and shaped by a Camillus arborist.
Signs of progress
And then are those not-so-welcoming signs at the four entry points to the village, which don knives and proclaim Camillus as home of the long defunct Camillus Cutlery. The signs will soon be replaced, as Montero used the remaining beautification funds to purchase new ones.