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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York
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Michael A. Treanor is out as a developer of the Woolworth building, and his partner has taken over the $10 million to $12 million project to convert the vacant landmark into rental housing.

With Mr. Treanor no longer involved, Long Island developer David Gallo, owner of Georgica Green Ventures, has emerged as a key figure in getting the redevelopment off the ground.

He has brought in a new partner, Erich H. Seber, who owns a Maryland construction consulting company, to work with a local team on the project. The two developers are in the process of acquiring the 91-year-old Public Square building from Mr. Treanor, they said.

They have chosen the Purcell Construction Corp., Watertown, and Lecesse Construction, Rochester, as contractors and the Syracuse-based Crawford & Stearns Architects and Preservation Planners to help with the project’s design.

Mr. Gallo, who is arranging for financing, and Mr. Seber were in Watertown on Thursday to meet with city officials and business leaders to discuss their plans. For the past four months, Mr. Seber has been visiting the north country weekly to advance the project.

“We are committed to this building,” Mr. Gallo said, adding that they already started talking with the city about their involvement.

The two developers said it was a better fit for them to pursue the project than for Mr. Treanor, who could not be reached for comment, to remain involved. They have worked together on other projects.

“It seems like they’re ambitiously moving on it,” said Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham, who toured the building Thursday with the two new developers.

With the change in the development team, the city will have to obtain approval from the state Empire State Development Corp. for the continuation of a $1.82 million Restore New York grant to help pay for the major restoration. The grant is actually in the city’s name, so it likely will take just sending off a letter to the agency requesting the change, said Kenneth A. Mix, city planning and community development coordinator. Mr. Mix also is working on getting the state to give them the full $2.5 million grant that originally was awarded the project in 2009.

“It looks like right now that there’s a lot of activity, with a lot to get done in a really short amount of time,” Mr. Mix said.

The developers also are working on completing an application for tax credits for investors from the state Homes and Community Renewal agency. They have been under the gun to finish the application by a Nov. 29 deadline but learned Thursday that it’s now due Jan. 8. To get state tax credits and for the project to advance, the building would have to offer affordable housing.

Under Mr. Treanor’s direction, the project had languished, with financing problems and a midstream change in the focus from a hotel to apartments. With a mixture of affordable and market rate housing, the number of apartments has been reduced from 60 to 50.

Mr. Seber, who owns White Birch Enterprise in Gaithersburg, MD., has been involved in developing townhouses in Great Neck, various affordable and senior citizen housing, a library renovation outside of Rochester and other projects.

With a background in construction, he was attracted to the Woolworth building because “it will be a challenge,” stressing the six-story structure “is at a tipping point” because of its deteriorating condition and continuing need for its restoration.

Mr. Gallo, who has experience in renovating landmarks into rental units, joined the efforts last winter after the project had stalled. Two other partners, Anthony and Matthew L. Ardito, whom Mr. Treanor brought in at the project’s inception, are also out of the picture.

The new developers are no longer demanding the adjacent CitiBus transfer station be moved for the project to proceed. However, adequate tenant parking remains an issue.

It also may take a tax abatement package for the project to proceed, Mr. Graham said.

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