Holley’s Latest Luminaire

When I first came to Holley six years ago, she lay dormant with many worn out buildings and abandoned storefronts. As she continued to sleep, many thought Holley’s days were numbered, failing to see the life and untapped potential that still resided within her. Slowly though… as Holley started to awaken it’s been heart-warming and inspiring to see her transformation — a transformation brought about a caring community of people who remembered her former beauty and still saw potential in her.

Her transformation started towards the end of 2010 with a team of Planning Board members and community representatives who worked with consultants in developing a Comprehensive Master Plan that defined a vision of Holley’s future. Soon after Sam’s Diner got a facelift. Then in February 2012, Jerome Pawlak opened a Save-A Lot grocery store after the community was without a grocery store for nearly six years. First Niagara Bank followed soon after investing in the community where they conducted their business. In May 2013, the Landmark Society of Western New York announced the Old Holley High School building made their “Five to Revive” list, saying that the building is an “irreplaceable historic resource.” In being named to the list, the Landmark Society of Western New York is now working collaboratively with owners, municipal officials, and developers to facilitate investment and foster rehabilitation of the site so that the building will once again play an active role in the community.

Holley’s transformation continues thanks to a $250,000 Main Street grant that the Village was awarded from the state back in December 2013, providing matching funds for building projects in the downtown area. As a result of this grant, work is now underway to improve several sites in the Public Square area. For instance… Dan and Monica Seeler are doing extensive work converting the first floor of the former Tagg’s Tavern into a steak and seafood restaurant, called the “Holley Falls Bar & Grill”, which is scheduled to open sometime this fall. Meanwhile the second floor is being converted into high end apartments. Then Jonathan’s Pastry Shop is getting a new façade and Lisa’s Dance Boutique is having the second-floor windows replaced and portions of the roof repointed. Other projects include VP Supply who is working on a vestibule for its Geddes Street building and Nancy Penna who may be renovating apartments on Thomas Street in the near future.

The good news gets even better! The Village was also awarded a $15,000 grant for streetscape improvements. Word has it that Village officials plan to use that money to refurbish the fountain in the center of the Public Square that was built in 1914 as well as add new benches. In addition, they are open to ideas from community residents on how to spend the remaining grant money.

Projects such as these not only go a long way in giving Holley a much-needed facelift, but it also encourages other building and business owners to invest in her too! By the time all of these projects are complete, Holley will be transformed into a beautiful, vibrant community to match the beauty and vibrancy she’s had within her all along. For that… Visions of Holley’s latest luminaire is not one person, but rather the entire community of Holley… without you there wouldn’t be any Visions of Holley!

You say you care…

In my last post, I cited a study that indicated low income residents care for their community more than their high income counterparts. This post takes it one step further, challenging you to take a tour of Holley to find out just how observant you are about your own backyard. While there is no pass-fail grading, it is hoped that the tour gets you to think about what we do well here in Holley; what we can do to make Holley an even better place to live; and most of all… what you can do to make a real difference. After all… it is YOUR community, YOUR home we are talking about. So let’s get started.

Let’s first take a walk around Holley’s Public Square area. What do you see, feel, and hear when you are there? Do you see vacant, blighted properties, or hear a vibrant business district? Do you feel a sense of pride with the types of businesses that are coming into the area, or are you embarrassed by the pawn shops, new storage facilities, and rows of closed up shops and abandoned buildings? Then ask yourself…

  • What are some of the challenges that small business owners face within the community?
  • What is the turnover rate and vacancy rate of area businesses?
  • What are some of the challenges that the community face when attracting industry to the Holley Business Park?
  • How are existing businesses being encouraged?
  • What opportunities exist to better connect the Erie Canal with the center of the village?
  • How could the business environment within the Village of Holley be improved?

Now let’s continue our walk into the village neighborhoods. What do you see, feel, and hear? Do you hear children playing in the neighborhood? Do you see homes that are run down and in disrepair, or are you excited to see our neighborhoods thriving with charming, well-maintained historic homes that demonstrate pride in ownership? Do you feel safe raising your children and grandchildren in our neighborhoods? Or are you waiting for the day when you have saved up enough money to move out of here? Then ask yourself…

  • What are the historic preservation goals of the community?
  • What obstacles are there to historic preservation?
  • Would the community support regulations associated with historic buildings and sites?
  • What is the occupancy rate of downtown apartments?
  • What are the main obstacles to occupancy?
  • What impact has the prior trend of converting single-family homes had on neighborhoods?
  • Are there opportunities for new housing development within the village?
  • Where is new development appropriate?
  • Are there adequate housing options for senior residents in the village? If not, what improvements could be made?

OK… now that we’ve walked a bit, let’s continue our tour with a bike ride or a drive around town. What do you see, feel, and hear as you do? Is your ride a comfortable one or is it full of bumps? Then ask yourself…

  • What are some specific issues with roadways and sidewalks?
  • What are the main obstacles to updating existing infrastructure?
  • What is the capacity of the existing infrastructure?
  • What are the village’s needs?
  • What steps need to be taken to address the outdated water and sewer systems?
  • What facilities or services are available in the village for senior residents?
  • What additional facilities or services are needed?

Now that you had a chance to think about your own experiences, let’s invite even more people on our tour…your family and friends who are nearest and dearest to you. What do they see, feel, and hear as they tour Holley? Do they see that there is plenty of things for them to do to keep them here, or do they leave disappointed, viewing Holley a quick stop on their way to someplace else? Then ask yourself…

  • What assets do we have within our community to entertain them?
  • What barriers do we have in enhancing tourism and marketing of our Erie Canal area?
  • What image do you wish to portray of the area?
  • Who do we want to reach?
  • What is currently being done to capitalize on the Village of Holley’s natural features, including its Canal Park, waterfall, as well as biking and hiking trails?
  • What opportunities exist for attracting canal users?
  • What opportunities are there for developing additional programming at targeted locations (i.e. Holley Falls, recreational areas)?
  • What opportunities exist for attracting visitors to the area?
  • What activities/programs are in place for our seniors and youth?
  • What opportunities exist for additional programming targeted at these populations?

Our tour is now done. You’ve had a chance to think about all that you have seen, felt, and heard. Now ask yourself, “Do I REALLY care about Holley?” Enough that is to step up to the plate and get involved? You did the hard part already… taking a tour of Holley, absorbing all the sights, sounds, and feelings that are all around you… not just for the moment, but every day. The only difference now is that you are aware of them! The next steps require you to show that you REALLY care by getting involved. While painless, it does require you to get out of your easy chair. It involves attending village meetings on a regular basis to learn all the issues. More importantly, it tells our village officials that they REALLY are accountable to you and that as a taxpayer you expect them to serve you. So when are these meetings?

  • Planning Board meetings are held the first Tuesday on the month at 7 pm at the Village Offices at 72 Public Square.
  • Village Board meetings are held the second Tuesday on the month at 7 pm at the Village Offices at 72 Public Square.

Finally…. there’s always room for improvement. So if you are not happy with what you see, hear, and feel around town, contact one of your local representatives; let them know that you REALLY do care; then proceed to tell them what it is you want to see, hear, and feel on your next tour of Holley. Your public servants are:

Five to Revive

As my readers are well aware, the former Holley High School has fallen into disrepair and has been vacant for many years. The historical building in the heart of the village may once again come to life with the Landmark Society of Western New York recent announcement that the historical building has been identified as one of their “Five to Revive” for economic development within the Rochester region. Most recently the building was used by Liftec Manufacturing until they went bankrupt about 20 years ago and before that as a secondary school up until its closure in the early 1970s.  In a recent press release posted their Web site, the preservation organization stated that “Whether buildings, landscapes, or structures, they are significant historic properties whose rehabilitations can become catalytic projects for the neighborhoods and communities that surround them”.

So why was this building chosen after all these years? The former Holley High School is a highly visible anchor in our historic Erie Canal village and is considered one of the most important civic buildings in Orleans County. Further, its notable historic and architectural significance, combined with its prominent location and scale of design, make it an important candidate for rehabilitation and re-use after nearly 30 years of vacancy. Finally… as a contributing building in the proposed “Holley Village Historic District,” the former Holley High School appears to be individually eligible for listing in the State and National Register of Historic Places.

So what does this mean exactly? The Landmark Society is offering to work collaboratively with owners, municipal officials, and developers to facilitate investment and foster rehabilitation so that these structures can again play an active role in their communities. With ideas abound as to its best use, there has been talk about converting the building into much needed senior housing. Other buildings making the list include the Pulaski Library, Eastman Dental Dispensary along with the pedestrian bridges in Genesee Valley Park, and the Sampson Theatre in Penn Yan.

For more information, check out the Landmark Society of Western New York’s website.

Holley’s Revitalization Strategy

More great news for the Village of Holley. As you probably know if you opened your electric and water  bill yesterday, Holley was recently awarded much-needed funding to begin area-wide revitalization efforts. Targeted to Village neighborhoods and other areas affected by brownfields or economic distress, this funding is provided through the New York State Department of State (NYSDOS) Brownfield Opportunity Area Program.

The Village of Holley is kicking off this revitalization effort with a three-step process that would secure the necessary grants and technical support to define, develop, and implement the scope of desired revitalization efforts. The three steps are:

Step 1: Pre-Nomination Study – a preliminary analysis of the community’s needs.
Step 2: Nomination Study – a comprehensive analysis of the target areas, including development of a revitalization strategy.
Step 3: Implementation – funding and implementing of the revitalization strategy

Beginning with Step 1, Holley is currently addressing the Pre-Nomination Study with development of a Holley Revitalization Strategy. This step involves identifying, clearly describing, and justifying a manageable study area and associated boundaries. Complementing and building off the vision, goals, and recommendations outlined in the Village’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan, this step:

  • Establishes a community participation process to begin to identify a common vision for the area, including goals and objectives;
  • Identifies the multi-agency, private-sector, and other community partnerships necessary to inform the process and leverage assistance for revitalizing the community;
  • Completes a preliminary analysis of the study area, including the identification of brownfield, vacant and underutilized sites;
  • Develops preliminary recommendations to revitalize the area; and,
  • Provides a series of key recommendations, including an identification of specific activities to be conducted, to serve as the basis for the Nomination phase (Step 2).

Upon completing the three-step BOA program, Holley will be designated as a Brownfield Opportunity area, which places the Village in a more competitive position for funding and incentives under several State and Federal assistance opportunities.

So what does this mean to YOU? Plenty. For starters, it means overall improvement of the health and welfare of residents, visitors, workers, and students with new or expanded services; a safer, more attractive village with the removal of abandoned or neglected buildings; promotion of our natural resources including our Erie Canal heritage; and best of all… renewal of community spirit with the revitalization of residential and commercial properties.

To learn more about this effort, be sure to explore Holley’s Revitalization Strategy website at http://www.revitalizeholley.com/. Then get involved by taking an online survey and attending the first public meeting scheduled for Monday January 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm at the Holley Elementary School.

A Very Happy Holley-Day to Village Residents!

It’s a very Happy Holley Day for the Village of Holley as village officials recently learned that they are recipients of a $250,000 Main Street Grant provided through New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) program. This funding will be used to assist the village with rehabilitation and revitalization of a number of commercial and residential properties in the mixed-use business district of the Public Square area. More specifically, proposed projects will include renovations to the interior and exterior of buildings, facades, building systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical), structural, roofing, windows, and other interior upgrades.

According to the village’s press release, the program requires property owners participating in the project to provide a minimum of 25% matching funds for their respective renovation projects. Planned improvements to the facade, building, and streetscape will add greatly to the aesthetic appeal of Holley’s downtown business district along the Erie Canal as well as create an appealing neighborhood in which to live and locate a business.

Revitalization and rebirth of the the business district along with on-going updates to the village’s zoning ordinance represent a huge step forward for Holley in its implementation of their 2010 Comprehensive Plan. What’s more, this project supports the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s Strategic Plan in improving the area’s business climate, with much of the planned work aimed at bringing new businesses and jobs to Holley; promoting the viability of and expanding existing businesses; and providing access to affordable, quality housing to low- to moderate-income individuals. With additional improvements on the way, Holley hopes to build on its recent successes, including the new presence of the Holley Save-A-Lot grocery store and First Niagara Bank in the village, both of which have dramatically improved the business climate in Public Square area and brought in a tremendous amount of traffic to the village.

In the coming weeks, be on the look out for informational material from the Village as they will be conducting an outreach effort to explain requirements for participating in the Main Street Grant program. In addition, the Village plans to schedule a series of Public informational meetings within the community to present information and to answer questions area businesses and residents may have.

Special Note: No work will be started on buildings in the target area at this time as the Village of Holley must be under contract with the state for any expenditures to be reimbursed. It is anticipated that the contract will be executed in early 2013.

Source: Suburban News West Edition

EPA Meeting Tonight

UPDATE: Very interesting meeting. Looks like the EPA is “cooking” up a new idea for further chemical spill cleanup in the area. Click here for results of last night’s meeting.
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The federal Environmental Protection Agency will share  a $14.5 million cleanup plan tonight (Sept. 5) a 7 p.m. meeting at the American Legion, 5 Wright St. The agency has already spent $12 million removing chemicals and waste from the former Diaz Chemical, including the dismantling of some of Diaz’s production and storage buildings. Tonight, the EPA plans to share a new $14.5 million plan for cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater at the former Diaz plant on Jackson Street. In addition to sharing details of this plan, the EPA will take questions from the community. The EPA took over the Diaz site in June 2003 after the company declared bankruptcy. Diaz operated in Holley for 29 years.

“Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”
― Fred Rogers

Yet another way to shop small

While many trends come and go, the push to shop local as an alternative to shopping the “big boxes” is gaining momentum. In fact, many small towns across the country are kicking things up a notch, by using their own colorful currencies. Take for example, the small mountain community of Southern Berkshire, Massachusetts, where local residents exchange their U.S. currency for colorful bills called “BerkShares”. Available in 1-, 5-, 10-, 20- and 50-unit denominations, residents use this “funny money” at more than 400 local businesses. What’s more… with the current exchange rate of 95 U.S. dollars to 100 BerkShares, the currency offers residents greater buying power. It gets better… to keep the BerkShares in circulation, the local bank is even involved… charging merchants 5% if they try to exchange the currency for U.S. dollars! How’s that for boosting the local economy?

This is just one of many examples of how communities across the country are banding together with their neighbors to stimulate not only conversation, but the local economy too during tough times. And it’s not all idle chatter…. use of alternative currencies is also stimulating even more conversation about other creative solutions for supporting local merchants. Want to learn more? Click here for the full article on CNN.com.

“Successful people …just love what they’re doing,
and they love it in front of others.”

The Word According to Mr. Rogers by Fred Rogers

Wikipedia: the definition: —used as a function word to indicate that a following noun or noun equivalent is definite or has been previously specified by context or by circumstance.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

For more than 30 years, Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) visited our living room and our hearts. With a warm smile and a gentle demeanor, he would start each show singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” as he changed into sneakers and zippered his signature cardigan sweater. In a typical episode, Rogers would share conversation with local residents and visitors; give us a tour of small local businesses such as a dentist, bakery, or grocery store; and explain how things were made. His message in each episode was simple yet effective, never included animation, and was always leisurely rather than fast-paced. Each episode also featured a trolley. With a cheerful chime all of its own, Mr. Rogers would board the trolley, taking us on a tour of his neighborhood and discussing community-related topics ranging from loving and accepting your neighbors and yourself to sharing everyday challenges and fears. For example, during the Gulf War (1990–91), he assured his audience that all children in the neighborhood would be well cared for and asked parents to promise to take care of their own children. Through the years, he not only earned our love and trust, but he also shared many wonderful lessons about friendship, mutual respect, honesty, and so much more along the way.

With Mr. Rogers as a source of inspiration, the “Visions of Holley” blog now features a “trolley” — a circa 1907 New York Central Depot, which currently houses the Murray-Holley Historical Society. Through regular posts, I will be taking you on a tour of Holley and its surrounding neighborhoods. Together, we will explore Holley’s past, which is rich in history thanks to its heritage on the Western Erie Canalway; address community-related topics of the present day; as well as share our plans for a brighter future. To stay motivated while on our journey, I will also use the blog to share inspiring quotes from Fred Rogers as well as feature luminaires who serve as “bright lights” in our communities near and far by virtue of their good works.

Grant Money Available

Just in from the Landmark Society of Western New York...The New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) administers the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grant program, which includes the Historic Preservation Program and the Heritage Areas Program among others. Of interest to many, the Historic Preservation program is a matching grant program for improving, protecting, preserving, rehabilitating, or restoring properties listed on the National or State Registers of Historic Places. Funds are available to municipalities or not-for-profits with an ownership interest. For more information, check out EPF grants.

Change is all around us…

While many often resist change, it is inevitable. In fact, whether you choose to embrace it, one does not have to go to far to experience it with our without our permission. Take for instance… Brockport… a charming, small college town that is on the verge of BIG changes courtesy of one man’s vision who just happens to be a developer with lots of money. Take a peak of the following video clip from 13WHAM to hear what one man has in store for our neighbor just east of us: Huge “Collegetown” Development Planned for Brockport. Yes… change is all around us. So brace yourself…