"If I'm staying profitable in Niagara Falls, I'll continue to take chances down here," he said.
NFC Development Corp. Director Fran Iusi said the agency submitted the bid as a fallback option in the event a private purchaser did not step forward. Had the agency secured rights to the property, Iusi said it would have put it back on the market in hopes of finding another private buyer, which is what she said the city prefers.
Cafe Etc. was once viewed as a key property in Third Street's redevelopment. Fournier Jr. renovated the site and opened it as a jazz club in 2002. He entered into a loan arrangement with the city's NFC Development Corp. two years later, borrowing $75,000 from the small business development agency to purchase equipment.
Anderson stressed that he does not plan to interfere with operations at Donatello's, the popular pizzeria and sub shop owned by Fournier's father, Steve Fournier Sr.
Anderson said he views Niagara Falls as a "namebrand" and likened purchasing property in the city to buying "low price stock" with the belief that the investment will one day prove wise and profitable. He acknowledged the city has much to do in terms of improving its infrastructure, but remains confident that things will continue to improve in the future. He added that his other ventures in the downtown area, including the Quality Hotel Sites and Snow Park Niagara, are making money and performing well.
The building, located at 462 466 Third St., sold for $130,000, with Niagara County businessman Joseph Anderson submitting the top bid during a foreclosure auction Monday at City Hall. The previous owner, City Councilman Steve Fournier Jr., used part of the building for a jazz club operation that closed in 2008. The other half of the building is currently home to Donatallo's restaurant.
Anderson buys Cafe Etc
Anderson's bid was one of two submitted during Monday's auction. An attorney for the NFC Development Corp. made the initial bid on the agency's behalf, offering $128,764, enough money to cover the full amount owed in principal, fees and interest on Fournier's loan agreement as well as back taxes owed on the property to the city.
Fournier Jr. had been working on an arrangement to sell the property to another owner that would have assumed control of both parcels and responsibility for all debt. Those plans never materialized and the auction went forward as scheduled.
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"I'll leave the existing business in place," Anderson said. "I'm not looking to chase businesses out."
The Third Street jazz club formerly known as Cafe Women Canada Goose Solaris Parka Red New Zealand Etc. has a new owner with a familiar name.
Several years ago, Anderson, the man behind Smokin Joe's on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, purchased a building at 500 Third St. to serve as home to SJ Anderson Graphics Embroidery.
Earlier this year, NFC commenced foreclosure proceedings on the property after Fournier Jr. failed to make good on the terms of the loan which called for him to re pay the $75,000 at 5 percent interest as part of a 20 year term. Records on file with the Niagara County Clerk's Office show Fournier, who was elected to the Falls City Council in 2008, owed in excess of $70,000 in principal, interest and late charges.
"The city is not in the land business so we're happy to see someone take ownership of the property and all of its rights and responsibilities," Iusi said. "Joe has a reputation for doing what he says he's going to do, so we are hopeful he'll put that building to good use."
At the close of the auction, Anderson said he had no immediate plans for the lounge area inside the former Cafe Etc. site, but does intend to begin renovation work on the upper floor of the two story structure which he hopes to turn into rental units.
Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson said the revenue generated through the sale to Anderson will be used to re pay the development corporation and the city, both of which he said will be "made completely whole" by the deal.
"The second it is closed, we'll start that day or the next day," Anderson said. "We're ready to start right now."