Brian Sharp
By brian

DHD Ventures Begins 88 Elm St. Downtown Renovation

Rising 13 stories, the vacant former office building at the edge of Midtown sits in the shadow of promise but around the corner from problems. On one side is Midtown Tower. On the other, the old Hotel Cadillac and another vacant property. Tom Masaschi and his DHD Ventures are betting on promise.

The plan is to convert 88 Elm St. from a bland, brick and cement building with narrow windows into a modern, largely glass mixed-use structure with ground-floor commercial, 36 apartments and a two-story office at the top with a wraparound balcony. The smaller, and somewhat higher-end, units should differentiate it from Midtown Tower, he said. The Tower is getting a $59 million overhaul into 179 modern apartments and three floors of retail/commercial space.

Both are banking on the trend of people moving to the center city. The downtown population has nearly doubled since 2000, and currently is estimated at more than 6,000.

“No question (location) is a concern,” Masaschi said, referring to Chestnut Street as a risk factor today but likely to become a unique area unto its own in the future.

“We saw (88 Elm) as an opportunity and a bit of a risk. We had to look at the building with different glasses on because the way it sits right now, and the way it looks, it is going to be quite different.”

DHD also is “heavily involved in Chestnut,” actively pursuing a couple of other properties. He declined to elaborate. And the company owns 111 on East (the former East Avenue Commons) and 120 East Ave., both roughly a block away from 88 Elm St. Working with the city and hotel operator, Masaschi said, “we all figure it out together.”

A different developer, Matthew Wood, bought the vacant building at 65 Chestnut St. days after plans to raze and redevelop Midtown first were announced in 2007. Nothing has happened since. DHD since bought the parking lot behind it to service 88 Elm St. “The first guys in definitely get a little bloody,” Masaschi said.

City approvals await, including sale of the property. The city currently owns 88 Elm St., but has a memorandum of understanding with DHD, after seeking development proposals. DHD is talking with the city and Monroe County about some public assistance, possibly tax incentives.

Construction could begin around the first of the year and would take a year to complete. DHD has yet to establish a firm project cost.

“We saw (88 Elm) having a lot of potential, being part of what is happening with Midtown,” said Adam Driscoll, development director with DHD Ventures. “It’s all going to be like a domino effect.”