porsche adidas Historic downtown Elmira building has new life
Ahistoric building that sat vacant for years in the heart of downtown Elmira is once again generating activity.
The City of Elmira earlier this year sold the former Federal Building at 200 E. Church St. to No Limit Partners, a local firm that manages several rental properties in the area.
Since that time, partners Nicholas Difasi and Ryan Wieder have undertaken extensive renovations in the building and have already attracted several tenants, with more on the way.
Two businesses owned by Difasi and Wieder Mattresses By Appointment and Elmira Wholesale Furniture occupy part of the space.
Other tenants include Triple Talent Academy, J B’s Bulldog BBQ Cafe, and attorney Mark Smith.
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It all started because Difasi and Wieder were looking for a place to expand their own businesses.
“The city turned us on to a few different buildings they owned, and this was one. We always admired it,” Difasi said. “When we wanted to expand and also open Elmira Wholesale Furniture, the city showed us this. We worked on (the sale) for about a year. In that time, we identified other local businesses who needed space.”
The Federal Building was erected in 1902 and was originally a post office and courthouse. Numerous businesses and entities came and went over the years but it sat vacant for years after the city took over ownership.
Buy PhotoNicholas Difasi, one of the new owners of the former Federal Building in Elmira, shows off space that will be converted into a tap room. (Photo: Jeff Murray / Staff photo)
In 2010, the city received a $1.3 million Restore NY grant for rehabilitation of the structure, including roof replacement, asbestos abatement, repointing of stonework, a new fire alarm system and accessibility upgrades, with the intention of selling the property to a private developer.
Despite that investment, the structure still suffered from years of neglect, Difasi and Wieder said,and it took months to get it ready for occupancy a process that is still ongoing.
“One entire side of the building was all police evidence. They had to move everything out,” Difasi said. “We painted everything, put in new carpets, all new walls,
metal doors. The water hadn’t been on for years. When we turned it back on, there were pipes blowing up everywhere.”
The owners also changed all the lighting to LED bulbs, Wieder added.
Once parts of the building were ready to be occupied, it didn’t take long to fill them up.
Triple Talent Academy, a performing arts academy that opened in the fall of 2014, saw the Federal Building as a perfect location for a permanent home.
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“I was born and raised here. Downtown was a big part of my world growing up,” said academy co founder John Novick. “Now that it’s being rejuvenated, it’s really big for me.”
For Smith, a lawyer who spends a lot of time in the courtroom, the building also provided a convenient location.
“It’s close to all the courts, and the office space is really nice,” Smith said. “These guys are doing a great job bringing this building back to life.”
A space in the Federal Building gave Jeremy Gulich, owner of J B’s Bulldog Cafe, a chance to settle down in a permanent spot.
Until now, Gulich operated out of a mobile unit. That was beforeDifasi and Wieder, who went to high school with Gulich, made him an offer.
Buy PhotoJeremy Gulich owns J B Bulldog BBQ Cafe, one of the new tenants in the former Elmira Federal Building. (Photo: Jeff Murray / Staff photo)
“I thought this building was amazing. They sold the idea to me,” Gulich said. “It’s been busy. I get a lot of foot traffic. Once the building is complete, I think it will really take off at that point.”
While much of the old building which is on the National Register of Historic Places sports the opulence and ornate decor of a bygone era, other parts are in various stages of reconstruction as the renaissance continues.
Future plans include a new taproom on the first floor and possibly a craft brewery in the basement, along with a banquet facility on the second floor. The third floor will all be converted into upscale apartments, Defasi said.
The pair is also on the lookout for other possible commercial tenants, either temporary or permanent.
Defasi and Wieder have invested a lot of time and money in the project already,
but they said the commitment is a testament to their belief that downtown Elmira is making a comeback.