John Street houses

JBJ Real Property received an extension on an expired sales tax exemption from the Auburn Industrial Development Authority in order to continue delayed renovations of several John Street properties, pictured here, into apartment units.

AUBURN — The Auburn Industrial Development Authority Wednesday passed resolutions allowing to support projects from both Prison City Pub & Brewery and JBJ Real Property.

Following public hearings for both, the board approved an initial resolution for Prison City's request for financial assistance in building a new brewery and tasting facility, and extended a tax exemption for JBJ's work to renovate several homes on the edge of Auburn's downtown.

In 2012, JBJ entered a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal with AIDA as part of a project that included since-completed renovations of multiple properties on East Genesee, Dill, and State streets in the city.

Part of that agreement included a sales and use tax exemption related to the renovations. The exemption expired in the time since, as the final leg of the project — renovating several properties on John Street into apartments — was held off while JBJ and the city discussed possibly locating a proposed public safety facility at the site.

In order to continue with that original renovation plan, JBJ requested a renewal of the exemption, worth $144,000 as $176,000 of the original $320,000 exemption had already been used.

Speaking before the board, Joe Bartolotta of JBJ said some initial interior work has already been completed on 10, 12 and 14 John Street, which will be converted into five, four and two-unit apartments, respectively.

The original PILOT agreement covered 5,6,7,9,10,12 and 14 John Street, but Bartolotta said some additional structures have since been acquired.

While the buildings would be converted into apartments, Bartolotta said the company would be thoughtful in their approach to renovation to ensure the historic character of the homes is respected. The full rehabilitation for the projects would include new siding, heating, electrical and plumbing systems, and more, he said.

Rent structure for the planned apartments is still in flux, Bartolotta said, but he expects them to be comparable to similar properties the company owns and at market rates.

Multiple board members spoke favorably of the project. With John Street serving as a entrance to downtown for many visitors and residents, the city would benefit from sprucing up the dilapidated properties.

"When all of the projects are resolved, I think it'll be a really great addition to the landscape of downtown Auburn," Board member Tricia Kerr said.

Much of the work to brighten up the city's downtown in recent years have focused on other areas, Mayor Michael Quill said, so it makes sense to include John Street as well.

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"To me, this is just a natural fit to the long-range plan," Quill said.

The board approved the extension, with all members voting in favor, save for Bill Andre, who abstained.

The board also approved an initial resolution for Prison City's request for assistance to create a new facility on 5.5 acres at 251 North St.

Over multiple phases, that project includes plans for an approximately 14,000-square-foot brewery, an approximately 8,250-square-foot tasting room and restaurant space, an approximately 5,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden and the renovation of an existing approximately 8,000-square-foot barn into a tasting room.

The project's application includes a tentative budget of $4.25 million for the project, with funding coming from a mix of finacing, equity, and a $900,000 state grant.

Prison City owners Dawn and Marc Schulz are seeking a sales and tax exemption, a mortgage recording tax exemption, and a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement from AIDA, a combined abatement worth $460,342. The project is expected to create $274,516 worth of increases in property tax revenue over the 10 years of the PILOT, with $236,617 in annual sales tax revenue and $735,000 in annual payroll after three years. 

The business has been hoping to expand in order to meet demand for Brewer Ben Maeso's award-winning beers, like Mass Riot India Pale Ale, for some time. In November of 2018, Prison City was planning to construct the facility at 197-199 North St. before ultimately choosing the current location.

Co-owner Dawn Schulz said at the meeting that, once everything for the project has been approved, they should be ready to start construction by late summer.

According to AIDA Executive Director Tracy Verrier, since the project still needs final approval from the city's planning board, which includes a State Environmental Quality Review Act review, the resolution essentially acknowledged that the board is considering the request.

At the board's last meeting, there were not enough members present to vote on the initial resolution, which normally includes the public hearing, so Board Chair James Dacey called the hearing himself, making Wednesday's approval something of a formality, Verrier said.

No members of the public spoke in regards to either project.

The next meeting of the city's planning board is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Tuesday July 2 at City Hall.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin