Sep 27, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The long abandoned gas station on the western border of DeWitt is finally no more.
Town of DeWitt Highway Department employees began salvaging recyclable materials from the old Citgo gas station that sits on the border of DeWitt and Syracuse at 2301 E. Colvin St. Thursday, and demolition began Monday morning. The gas station, formerly owned by the Alaskan Oil Co. of Syracuse, has been vacant since closing in 2002.
The town purchased the property for about $37,000 in back taxes.
“We picked up the parcel for back taxes over a year ago, and that process was a lengthy one, but the parcel’s been an eyesore and a blight to the neighborhood and surrounding community for almost a decade,” said DeWitt Town Supervisor Ed Michalenko. Highway department foreman Rocco Conte, who oversaw the demolition, said that while acquiring the property and lining up the demolition was a lengthy process, “cleaning up the mess isn’t taking long at all.” He expected debris from demolition to be cleaned up by Thursday.
Chris Santay, owner of Drumlins Dental Arts at the corner of East Colvin Street and Julian Place, is excited to see the building go. When he opened his business next to the gas station in 2001, the Citgo was fully functioning. Since its closure he’s watched the building deteriorate and become covered in graffiti, resulting in multiple re-paints. .
“It’s gonna be such a relief to drive down Nottingham Road and be able to see the office and not have to look past that rundown gas station,” Santay said. ”I think it’ll be great for the businesses and the people that live in this area.”
Since the gas station’s closure, the DeWitt planning board determined that the property was too small to host a viable business entity and presented traffic and safety concerns for redevelopment, Michalenko said. He said the property’s small size made it a tough sell for the former property owner. It also lacked sufficient parking and safe egress and exit.
It’s been a colorful journey for the vacant building. In 2008, Syracuse University graduate student Jennifer Marsh covered the abandoned gas station’s roof with 3,400 colorful sheets of fabric as part of World Reclamation Art Project. That came down when Marsh left the area.
Soon after, Eva Fernandez, a Tecumseh Elementary student, drew a picture of the gas station being torn down and replaced with a lawn and flowers. Fernandez wrote to DeWitt officials asking that they beautify the space. Michalenko said her timing was just right.
“The thing had sat for years, and the little girl’s letter helped prompt us in picking it up on the back taxes role,” he said. “Years earlier it wasn’t available.”
The DeWitt town board is working with city and county officials to develop plans to turn the property into a welcoming green space for the west side of town, said Mike Moracco, commissioner of sustainability for the town of DeWitt. The town could install an electronic community sign at the location similar to the one at the intersection of East Genesee Street and Erie Boulevard to welcome people into DeWitt and to the Syracuse University campus.
Michalenko would like to see changes to the triangular intersection to improve safety for drivers and pedestrians.
“The current road configuration with Julian Place can be enhanced,” Michalenko said. “Right now it’s a difficult traffic alignment, and so we can improve it.”
Once the building is demolished, DeWitt will hold neighborhood meetings either in the fall or spring to gather input on what to do with the space.
“That’s going to take coordination with the city, the county and the town of DeWitt,” Michalenko said. “We want to go into those discussions knowing the concerns and the issues and the wants of the residents.”
Plans to replace the intersection with a traffic circle, and remove the traffic light at Colvin Street and Nottingham Road, have been discussed by town and city officials as well as plans to remove Julian Place. Santay said he would object to a traffic circle, but sees benefits in eliminating Julian Place, which runs adjacent to his dental practice.
“Would my business end up being on the side of a circle? In and out flow would be a challenge,” he said. “If they made it a green space, if they have to close [Julian Place], that would be a better choice as far as the aesthetics.”
Cleanup of the site, including demolition of the building and removal of the old gas tanks, is estimated to cost between $10,000 and $15,000 with help from anticipated Federal Brownfield grants, Moracco said. Michalenko expects the site’s enhancement to pay for itself over time by upholding property values in the area.
“The longer you let something like that decay, the more likely it is to depress property values,” he said. “That property sat for 10 years without any turnover or any viable alternatives.”