Vacant for 30 years, this historic 1915 bank building has now been beautifully restored to help revitalize downtown Olean, New York

June 13, 2023 saw the completion of the $12.5 million restoration and redevelopment of the 1915 First National Bank building and adjacent former Siegel’s Shoe Store building in downtown Olean, New York as part of the state’s successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The seven story First National building now houses 21 apartments, with commercial, event and art spaces occupying the former bank floor and mezzanine. The two-story former Siegel’s Shoe Store building was renovated into class-A office space.

New York State, in collaboration with Savarino Companies and local government partners is bringing this historic building located in the heart of Olean back to life. Photos of the completed project are available here, and before photos are available here.

Interior after restoration.

The ribbon cutting for the First National project marks a long-awaited milestone in the redevelopment of Olean’s Central Business District,” Governor Kathy Hochul said.

This historically significant, mixed-use building, which was vacant for nearly 30 years before we tackled its restoration, brings a vibrancy to Olean that will contribute to the city’s goals for a walkable, thriving downtown,” she added.

The Gallery at Olean is First National’s largest and most visible tenant. The first new tenant was Casa-Trinity, which provides peer-based counseling and recovery services for those suffering from alcohol and substance addictions.

The building’s remaining storefront commercial spaces are completed and move-in ready for other tenants who may take advantage of the visible street front space.

First National also has 21 apartments on floors two through 7, including one studio, five one-bedrooms, 14 two-bedrooms and one three-bedroom.

The two-tone, brick-and-stone edifice, erected in 1915, was home to the First National Bank of Olean for 57 years, until that bank was acquired in 1972 by Manufacturers Hanover Corp. of New York City, who occupied it until 1994.

The architecturally significant edifice at the corner of Union and State Streets has been vacant ever since. The Olean Urban Renewal Agency took title to the property in 2010.

Interior before restoration.

City of Olean Mayor William Aiello said, “The First National has been vacant for close to three decades, it has endured many starts but no finishes until the Savarino Companies took possession in November of 2020 and finally brought some light and life to this corner. I would like to thank the Olean Urban Renewal Agency for having the foresight to preserve and stabilize the building and for Sam Savarino for undertaking this venture and investing in our community. I would also like to thank Governor Hochul for her commitment to our community. Olean was very fortunate to receive the Downtown Revitalization Initiative; it has definitely helped our downtown become inviting, attractive and full of life.

The City of Olean was named a Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) round 2 winner in August 2017. The First National Bank Project received $2 million from the DRI, as well as state and federal historic preservation tax credits, federal New Markets Tax Credits and bank and HCR loans totaling more than $4 million.

The restoration project was contingent on the completion of building stabilization.

A $500,000 NYS Parks grant from the Environmental Protection Fund was awarded to the Olean Urban Renewal Agency for building stabilization in Round 7 of the Regional Economic Development Fund, and $200,000 from Empire State Development was awarded to the City of Olean in Round 1.

New York State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “Growth in the City of Olean is well underway, as key projects through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative continue to strengthen the sense of community and improve quality of life for residents, while also attracting new businesses that are spurring economic development. The completion of the First National Bank project puts the City of Olean one step closer to achieving its vision of creating a vibrant downtown community brimming with opportunities for residents and visitors to work, learn and thrive.

In addition to the First National Bank project, the City of Olean received $5.45 million through the DRI for five public works projects including the North Union Streetscape Improvements and improvements to South Union Street, West State Street, East State Street and Oak Hill Park.

Other projects that were awarded DRI funding include the Old Library Restaurant & Inn, Four Mile Brewing, the African American Center for Cultural Development and the renovation of historic row buildings at 319 and 321 N. Union Street.

A downtown revitalization and rehabilitation fund was also established to encourage and support investment in downtown properties.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Hope Knight said, “Governor Hochul’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects are strengthening city centers throughout the state. The First National Bank’s transformation preserves this historic architectural anchor on Olean’s main street, while adding new residential, commercial and creative spaces that will boost the city’s quality of life, for residents and newcomers alike.

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “For nearly 30 years, this building sat vacant but now, thanks to the leadership of Governor Hochul and many community partners, we are glad to see it given new life. We’re happy our grant for building stabilization helped with the restoration and rebirth of this section of downtown Olean.”

State Senator George M. Borrello said, “It is exciting to see Olean’s iconic First National Bank building beautifully restored and ready to begin its next chapter in the life of the community. The path to this moment required persistence, determination and, above all, a great vision. As a supporter of this project, I am grateful to all those who recognized its potential and contributed to the transformation we are celebrating today. Those partners include Governor Hochul, our state and local economic development agencies and Mayor Aiello, Olean’s strongest champion. With the momentum from this effort and other DRI projects, Olean is truly on the cusp of a new era.

Assemblymember Joseph M. Giglio said, “I’m so pleased at the completion of the First National or ‘Manny Hanny’ project. This building is at the heart of the Olean downtown renaissance, and I applaud the developers and officials who have brought it back to life. This has been a long time in the making and is the result of an enormous amount of hard work by many people and agencies. Olean is a great place to live, work and do business, and this is a great day.

Savarino Companies’ President and CEO Sam Savarino said, “We are so proud to have played a role in making this building useful to the people of Olean once again. The people here never gave up on the First National, and programs at all levels of government played a role in making it possible, as did our partner investors from the private sector.”

Cattaraugus County IDA Executive Director Corey Wiktor said, “On behalf of the County of Cattaraugus Industrial Development Agency, we were honored to be part of this truly historic and monumental project. We extend our sincere thanks to Governor Hochul, her staff and agencies, including Hope Knight, Robert Rodriguez and Erik Kulleseid, along with Senator Borrello, Assemblyman Giglio, Mayor of Olean William Aiello, and Keri Kerper who all brought this redevelopment project to fruition.

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative was created in 2016 to accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all ten regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for investment.

Led by the Department of State with assistance from Empire State Development, Homes and Community Renewal and NYSERDA, the DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative “plan-then-act” strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation and results in compact, walkable downtowns that are a key ingredient to helping New York State rebuild its economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to achieving the State’s bold climate goals by promoting the use of public transit and reducing dependence on private vehicles.

In the first five years of the program, the state committed $600 million, investing in 59 downtowns ripe for revitalization that have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, greater economic and housing diversity and opportunity.

Featured photo of downtown Olean and the bank building in 2011 is by J0sh177 via Wikipedia. Interior photos are courtesy of the Office of the New York Governor.

Learn more about New York’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

You must be logged in to post a comment