by Patriot staff
WEBSTER - The new 8' x 10' sign high on the stone wall on the corner of Main Street and Bartlett Street is hard to miss. It promises a Community Development Project by the Spring of 2013. The sponsors for the project are local businesses Webster Ventures and Indian Ranch, both owned by Christopher Robert.
Mr. Robert 's goal is to clean up the properties on South Main Street from Bartlett Street to the Essentials Hair Salon. “This property has been a blot on the image of the town for many years,” he said. “After the town demolished the “Vito Block” in the spring to make way for the new police station, I wanted to eliminate the one eyesore left in the downtown area.”
Six months ago Mr. Robert intended to buy the two lots to make one larger lot suitable for development. The properties were owned by two different people, however. He offered to purchase the vacant lot from Stanley and Joseph Ciesla and the blighted buildings next to it from Gregory Seraphin. The deal with the Cieslas was completed but the offer with Mr. Seraphin fell through.
Last month the situation changed, and the Seraphin property became available again. This time Mr. Robert secured a Purchase and Sale Agreement with Mr. Seraphin, and the sale should close in February.
Mr. Robert plans remove all the structures on the properties. The Bartlett Street lot had a burned out house on it, and that that has already been cleaned up. The property still has a five-car garage on the back portion and a small stone garage on South Main. Both will come down. The Seraphin lot has four buildings remaining on it. The town demolished one of them last spring as part of its program to eliminate nuisance properties.
After all the buildings are gone, Mr. Robert will beautify the properties with landscaping.
There are still some immediate obstacles to overcome. The five-foot high stone wall on Main Street has bulged out because of a tree growing above it. The tree has to be removed to fix the wall; however, the tree anchors a high voltage electric wire stretching from a pole across the street next to the Gift Gallery.
National Grid has permission from the town to replace the tree with a pole in the sidewalk, but this will take some time to do. Another tree has to be removed as well.
Barring bad weather, Mr. Robert will tear down the buildings thirty days after the closing date.
What happens next?
“I have no plans to further develop the property myself,” he said. My number one goal was to the clean up the downtown and make Webster a more beautiful place to live.
“Obviously, I'd like to see something built there. Hopefully a company will come along who wants to build a new facility there and further enhance the downtown.”