FULTON, NY – There may be potential for historic preservation efforts along Broadway on FultonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s west side. There may not be time, however, to change the potential outcome for the former First Congregational Church.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œTime may be against you,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said Chris Capella-Peters, a regional representative of the NYS Office of Parks & Recreation/State Historic Preservation Office.
Members of the Fulton Common Council met this week with Capella-Peters to discuss potential preservation efforts and pending development that could result in the demolition of the Congregational Church at the corners of West First and Broadway. The session also included Joseph Fiumara of the Fulton Community Development Agency; Barbara Dix and Justin White of the Heritage Foundation of Oswego County, and Jan Mileskey, an elder of the church.
A zone change request that is slated to come before the Fulton Common Council next week is one of the prerequisites to the pending sale of the church and parsonage to Family Video Store. The company plans to take down the church properties, as well as a multi-family and a single-family home on West First Street, to put up a new video store outlet.
The single-family dwelling necessary for the plans is presently zoned as residential property, however. The request to change that to commercial space will be voted on Sept. 2.
Second Ward Alderman David Guyer set up the session with Capella-Peters to find out if there is a way to preserve the church as part of new development and learn about the available protections and funding sources for those types of projects.
Capella-Peters explained that while the church property is historically significant, there is nothing in the works that would prompt her office to step in at this time.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAt this moment, we have no official role,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe would support reuse instead of demolition and construction. It is so much better to reuse.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Capella-Peters pointed out that while reuse is more prevalent today, the current plans for the church property are not uncommon.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt happens everywhere and everyday,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Capella-Peters said.
Absent a proposed use, Capella-Peters discussed potential financial resources generically, such as grants through the state Environmental Protection Fund and matching funds that are available through her office, as well as investment tax credits. Fiumara pointed out that the city has tapped similar funding sources for the transformation of the former Oak Street School site several years ago.
Capella-Peters said while she had not been inside the church, the believes that the building would be part of a collection of properties on Broadway that could win historical recognition.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe church might merit recognition on its own,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said. She noted, however, that designation to the national registry of historic sites is more for recognition than it is for protection.
Regarding the video store project specifically, Capella-Peters noted that Fulton will likely lose more in historical value than it will gain if the project moves forward.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYes you will have tax dollars,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBut you arenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t creating jobs. What youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re proposing is not what you need more of in this community.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Mayor Ronald Woodward pointed out that he is a history buff and recognizes the value of historic sites for a community.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThere are other issues here that I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t think you can discount,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Woodward said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t own it.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Woodward said that the city has several beautiful old buildings near the church property that are falling into disrepair and becoming unsound, citing the brick building that collapsed on Broadway last November.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œFulton is not going to go out and borrow a half million dollars to partnerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ with your agency (to save the building),ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
He pointed out, too, that had the company not included the single-family home that requires a zone change in its plans, Fulton would have no part in the sale at all.
Resident David Mankiewicz, who has spoken publicly against the zone change request and the video store project, acknowledged that the city has little say in what will happen to the church at this point.
The project is not seeking a permit from the state or utilizing state or federal dollars. Capella-Peters pointed out that as long as the sale continues as a private transaction, nothing would trigger a state review.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have no desire to force the church to keep the building,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Mankiewicz said.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey have the final say,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Mankiewicz added. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNobody is twisting anyoneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s arm. It is up to them as the property owner.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Mileskey explained that once the local church completes its dissolution process, the church will be in the hands of the national conference of the United Church of Christ. Asked if the church could be toured by a developer and architect who specializes in preservation projects, he said he would have to consult with the real estate agent.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve got a contract (with Family Video Store),ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Mileskey said.
Capella-Peters suggested that the city conduct a historical assessment and set down zoning rules and procedures to avoid being caught in similar situations in the future.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œMore and more, what makes a community different is its past,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThat uniqueness makes using older buildings (for new development) more attractive.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt would be worth a hard look in any case,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â she said.