Tom DeChiaro, owner of the Winery at St. George in Yorktown, has a passion for restoring historic buildings and turning them into upscale destinations that people seek out. In his latest venture DeChiaro is proposing to convert the historic Ossining Savings Bank into a wine bar/jazz club that would be a catalyst to revitalizing the downtown of Ossining.
DeChiaro, who is currently running for the Yorktown Town Board, said he is impressed with innovative leadership from Village of Ossining officials. “I think the Ossining leadership is innovative and understands the value of partnering with small businesses and developers to do something that is going to better the community,” he said. “I commend them for being open to this.”
“We have a very strong innovative collection of department heads,” Ossining Mayor Bill Hanauer replied. “We can be this way because we can rely on them to do things differently than the way things were done 20 years ago and because there was this vision of the comprehensive plan, which everyone bought into.”
“I believe we need to be innovative and engaged when it comes to economic development, said Ossining Village Trustee Susanne Donnelly. “ We need to be open to listening and working through the process from planning to building to opening to promoting. Developers need to see positive interested leaders in communities who also understand the leaders have a responsibility to the residents to fiscally responsible while they encourage and work with developers to make sure they remain profitable.”
In reference to the comprehensive plan which identifies the economic goals and the objectives of the village, the mayor said, “It was such an enormous process that gave us a rich result and it is better than some other places that might file their comprehensive plans.”
The village’s plan identifies the following goals: promote Ossining as a desirable place to do business, focusing on regulatory reform and capacity building, create a dining and shopping destination to attract residents and visitors, both during the day and at night, promote and enhance downtown amenities and character and provide amenities, services and attractions that will draw people to the waterfront and the Village at large.
“The comprehensive plan calls for developing both sides of Main St., which includes in my opinion two anchors, 200 Main St. and the Flats Building, which has 12 affordable condos, at the corner of Main, Spring St. and Central Ave,” Donnelly said.
“While our downtown is small compared to other communities we have the ability to include the Waterfront into making Ossining a destination,” she added. “The vision would include destination spots—restaurants, shops water related activities on the waterfront with Main St. /Secor Rd. and Central Ave. as the link to downtown and the waterfront.
“Ossining has a comprehensive plan that is understandable and makes perfect economic sense,” stated DeChiaro. “They are trying to generate a night life and revitalize the waterfront and downtown Ossining area. In order to do that they are looking for businesses that will attract other businesses to open up there. That is why I think they came to me.”
The village issued a request for proposal in April that was open to the public. DeChiaro received a letter from the village inviting him to submit a proposal. The proposals were due in June. DeChiaro, who actually first looked at the building in 2010 was the only one to submit a proposal.
The Ossining Bank for Savings was given to the Village of Ossining in 2004 by its previous owner John Gouveia. The building has remained vacant for years but is listed on the national historic register. Complete restoration is estimated to cost $2.9 million.
“When we went out about a year ago we received 3 proposals for 200 Main St. the bank building, stated Donnelly. “The wine bar came in second and the first place proposal was named preferred development. The next step was to go into negotiations with the village, which after the property was appraised at $190,000 they—the first developer—declined to do. The RFPs went out again and the wine bar and jazz club was the only proposal that came in. The building has many challenges and we hope to approve the project Tuesday night after Tom’s presentation so that Tom and his team can become the preferred developer to negotiate with the Village for this property.”
DeChiaro would like to restore the plaster work that was done on the ceiling. “There were some beautiful ceilings that have been completely screwed up,” he said. “I would love the opportunity to restore them.”
Unlike the Winery in Yorktown, which is a wine bar that has some live jazz played as a special event, the proposed club would constantly have live music. “I want Ossining to be like the Blue Note or the BB Kings in Manhattan,” DeChiaro stated.
“It is very clear that restaurants and jazz clubs are a very important part to the revival of a downtown,” Hanauer said. “Having live music downtime is a big draw.”
Nevertheless, it is not a done deal yet. Just because DeChiaro was the only submission does not mean he gets to go ahead. “We do have the right to go out for an RFP again if we find do not think the proposal submitted is right for the village,” Hanauer explained.
“We are in the preliminary stages,” DeChiaro noted. “I am giving my presentation to the village board, which I am hoping will, upon their approval, lead to the negotiations and conditions of the deal.”
DeChiaro will be presenting his proposal to the village board at its work session on Tuesday, July 12.
For DeChiaro, who was had very public battles with Yorktown over transforming the early 20th century church he purchased into the winery it is today, the officials in the village have been a great to work with. “It is nice to work with government leadership that likes to partner with developers and businesses,” he said.