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Monday, February 21, 2022

Our Neighbor on the North Side of Camp Road:
The Augusta Chronicle Called it
'A Case Study: Perry, N.Y.'

Rick Hauser was looking for a small town in upstate New York, between Buffalo and Rochester, to set up his architecture firm. The village of Perry seemed to fit the bill for the Cornell University graduate.

Its main street, though half-vacant, was charming. The president of In.Site: Architecture set about finding a place to lease, but he encountered only disinterested property owners.

“He would go to one building and the owner would say, ‘No, I can’t do that because I’d have to fix my roof.’ He’d go to the next person and they’d say, “No, I’d have to rewire the building,’ " said Ed McMahon, a fellow at the Urban Land Institute, which uses Hauser’s story as something of a case study. “These were people who did not understand the difference between ‘spending’ and making an ‘investment.’ "

Hauser then tried to get a bank loan to purchase a building, but lenders turned him down, citing downtown’s high vacancy rate. So in 2005, Hauser decided to finance a purchase himself.

He formed a partnership called Main Street LLC. He sold shares in the venture to friends, family and even construction contractors, who offered in-kind services, such as plumbing, drywall and electrical work.

His group of three-dozen investors bought a two-story, 10,000-square-foot building on the town’s main street and renovated it into space for his office and other commercial tenants on the ground floor. Hauser converted the 124-year-old building’s top floor into loft apartments – something the 3,500-person village had never seen before.

“They practically leased up overnight,” McMahon said.

Hauser’s Main Street partnership has since acquired eight more buildings. And he’s now the village’s mayor.

“It goes to show there is a market for downtown living and working in every small community in America,” McMahon said.

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