Monday, March 21, 2011

Mt. Morris

For those of us who enjoy stopping in the town of Mount Morris on our way to Letchworth State Park, the town has become a more and more welcoming place, an emblem of small-town sensibility and charm. It's not an accident.

The NYTimes profiles the efforts of Queens businessman Greg O'Connell, a SUNY Geneseo alumnus, in remaking the town.
Things began to change in Mount Morris in 2007. That was when O'Connell quietly began buying up buildings — he now owns 20 — on Main Street... He restored the historic storefronts and interiors, cleaning the tin ceilings. He renovated the apartments on the second floors, bringing in fresh paint, oak and maple floors, new windows, nice bathrooms... O'Connell charges these businesses as little as $100 a month in rent, but he asks for things in return... O'Connell's leases require businesses to leave their lights on at night, to change their window displays at least four times a year and to stay open one evening a week. "If this place is going to make it," he says, "it’s going to be a community effort."
O'Connell became famous for developing Red Hook, Brooklyn, an area previously known for drugs and prostitution. There, he gained a reputation as a "socialist" - because he didn't build luxury condos on the cheap or flip buildings - while earning millions.

O'Connell says his wife won't give him permission to "do another town" - but if you've got a cool million lying around, visit Mount Morris and wonder if you could emulate the model elsewhere.

No comments: