Liverpool Village Historian Dorianne Elitharp Gutierrez couldn't be happier.
"It is so heartening to see that a living artifact of Liverpool's glory days as a bustling canal village can be brought back from the brink of destruction, renovated with thought and taste, and made commercially viable," Gutierrez said following Thursday's reception hosted by JGB Properties inside the newly remodeled building at the corner of First and Tulip streets.
More than two dozen local movers and shakers including Mayor Gary White, former Mayor Marlene Ward, County Legislator Judy Tassone and several village trustees attended the Oct. 28 reception. They munched on pastries and sipped coffee served by Freedom of Espresso, the Syracuse-based coffee shop franchise that will open its newest café there within a month or so.
To make the renovation a reality, JGB Properties partnered with the village of Liverpool to qualify for an $883,302 Restore NY grant from the Empire State Development Agency. The three-story building was converted to a mixed-use property with nine apartments and a first-floor commercial space.
"Persistence pays off," village Trustee Nick Kochan told reception guests. One of the great attractions of the location is that it's only one block from Onondaga Lake Park, he said, which is a hallmark of the village's Comprehensive Plan.
"We're looking for this kind of commercial interaction with the beauty of the park," Kochan said.
Gutierrez applauded the joint effort of public- and private-sector entities which spearheaded the renovation.
"It was a major effort that required a rare level of cooperation between public agencies and private enterprise," the historian said, "and that process itself should serve as a fine model for other projects."
Project director Christine Stevens said all nine apartments are rented, and she introduced Anna Dobbs, one of the owners of Freedom of Espresso.
Kochan applauded Stevens and her boss, Jay Bernhardt.
"Christine threw her whole heart and soul into this," he said. "She grew up on Cold Springs Road and graduated from Liverpool High School, and she really understood the importance of this project to the village…And Jay Bernardt [the CEO of JGB] really understands the value and virtue of what it means to be from Upstate New York."
JGB Properties has remodeled historic structures across Upstate. Bernhardt rehabilitated the Red Mill Inn in Baldwinsville, the Hotel Clarence in Seneca Falls, an old fire station in Syracuse and several mixed-use buildings in Richfield Springs.
The Liverpool building dates back to 1863 when Liverpool dry goods dealer William Manly is believed to have erected a new brick building at 401 First St. The building was expanded at 403 First circa 1872 with a matching Italianate exterior design. Over the years, the structure has housed general stores, The Lakeside Press, YMCA meeting rooms, a dentist's office and a pool hall, a Nash automobile dealership and Nichols grocery store. More recently, the building was home to the Olde Liverpool Shoppes.
As village historian, Gutierrez appreciates the renovation, but she's also a neighbor.
"Selfishly speaking, as a First Street neighbor I'm so glad to see a neighborhood landmark evolve from a liability to an asset. We love our neighborhood down here. I welcome our new neighbors, and hope they enjoy it as much as we do."