C. E. Welch Building Rehabilitation Project Moving Forward

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The Historic Rehabilitation and Adaptive Re-use of the C.E. Welch Building in Westfield, NY Receives CCIDA Loan

Article Contributed by
County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA)

Today marks the beginning of a new era for the C. E. Welch building located in Westfield, New York. With the assistance of $475,000 AL Tech Revolving Loan Fund financing provided by the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA), 2 Portage, LLC now owns the prominent historic structure located across from the village square in the community’s downtown residential and business district.

2 Portage, LLC will undertake the historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the C.E. Welch Building. The 51,000 square foot structure is located in the French Portage Road Historic District, which is both a local and nationally registered Historic District. Built for Dr. Charles E. Welch in 1909, the C.E. Welch Building represents a significant contribution to the history of architecture and commerce in the historic district. Most notably, the building housed the office headquarters of the Welch’s Grape Juice Company. Welch’s has a long history in this grape growing region and continues to have a strong presence in Westfield and surrounding areas.

After Welch Foods sold the building to a private developer in 2005, who was not able to proceed with rehabilitation and reuse of the building, it was acquired by the Town of Westfield in 2014. In 2021, they issued a Request for Proposals for redevelopment of the Welch Block. A development team headed up by Savarino Companies including RANT, LLC was awarded Designated Developer status, and subsequently entered into a purchase agreement with the Town. Savarino and the Town of Westfield also secured state funding through the Restore NY program and other ESD sources.

Upon completion, the building will include 46 mixed-income residential units, including studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 500 to 1,200 square feet. In addition, there will be 3,700 square feet of commercial space located in original commercial space at the corner of Portage Road and Main Street. The commercial space will be targeted at a mix of tenants, including a food and beverage/retail operator in the street-level space, and other professional service office spaces on the ground floor. The redevelopment of this building will provide needed housing in the Village, and street level retail, both of which will support the walkability and vitality of the Village.

The $18 million project was recently approved by Village officials. With the acquisition now complete, construction is expected to commence in mid-2023 after final Historic Landmark status is approved by the National Parks Service. The property will be renovated and managed by Savarino Companies.

In accordance with the local leaders’ goals, the four story landmark will remain intact, restored to its original grandeur, and will better suit community needs of today and beyond.

“Like many communities of its size across New York State, the Village of Westfield has some notable historic structures which are integral to the fabric of its central core but that, sadly, sit empty and abandoned. The team here at Savarino is excited to be working with the Village and Town of Westfield to bring this historic structure back to life. The C.E. Welch Building will soon be adding residents and commercial activity to the corner of South Portage and Main Streets” said Savarino Companies CEO, Samuel Savarino.

“Chautauqua County and Westfield are moving forward,” said Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel. “This adaptive, reuse and mixed-use project with co-located apartments and retail space is an example of how we are capitalizing on the rich history of our towns and villages across the county, adapting, thriving, and growing in new ways. I am excited that 2 Portage, LLC will breathe new life into this iconic building that has been an important part of our local history.”

Deputy County Executive for Economic Development and CCIDA CEO, Mark Geise said, “Attractive, right-sized housing for individual or family needs is crucial toward retaining and rebuilding the local economy. Although many exquisite, well-built homes exist in and around the Village of Westfield, certain housing and job seekers desire modern, ready-to-live in apartment space. This much-needed housing will also attract those who wish to live in a downtown walkable community, which supports and sustains local restaurants, small businesses, and fosters capacity for new entrepreneurial endeavors.”

The project will create an estimated 70 construction jobs and three post-construction full-time equivalent jobs.

“The vision and perseverance of our town board and our partners in this key redevelopment project will help to strengthen and highlight the small-town lifestyle that we enjoy in Westfield. The nearby Barcelona Harbor on Lake Erie, wineries, breweries, streams, and trails, such as the Welch Trail, are attractive to young professionals, families, and retirees. Our school district, hospital, library and close-knit community, with festive events such as our First Fridays, and the weekly Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market in the Park are a wonderful taste of Americana, that contribute to making it a great place to live. The redevelopment of this iconic structure will highlight all of this for newcomers and area residents relocating to the community as well as helping to support a resurgence in downtown Westfield,” said Martha Bills, Town of Westfield Supervisor.

“New street-level retail space equates to economic development for our Village. This type of downtown retail is ideal to attract pedestrians and cyclists, but will also act as a catalyst for generating more of these types of activities. This project will simultaneously strengthen the economic vitality of the Village while creating an atmosphere of community. The many local attractions, unique historical architecture, and downtown restaurants and retail offerings set us apart from cookie cutter towns with sprawling shopping centers prevalent in much of present day suburbia. Redevelopment of the C.E. Welch Building will be a significant contributor to the ongoing resurgence of downtown Westfield,” said Mayor of the Village of Westfield, Mike VandeVelde.

In addition to loan financing for building acquisition, the CCIDA Board of Directors also previously approved a Tax Lease/PILOT incentive agreement, which includes real property, sales, and mortgage recording tax abatements. This will help offset some of the initial development investments, thereby making the project economically feasible.

About CCIDA – The CCIDA is an economic development organization authorized and empowered by the State of New York to make Chautauqua County a better place to work, live, and visit. It facilitates development by attracting new businesses, while promoting the retention and expansion of existing businesses. Assistance in the form of incentives – tax abatements, low interest loans, and bond financing – enhances the opportunities for job creation and retention by our businesses. For more information visit www.ccida.com.