Fredonia businessmen to buy and redevelop historic White Inn | Business premises
After several years of vacancy in the heart of the village of Fredonia, the historic White Inn could come back to life, after a pair of local businessmen announced plans to buy and renovate the iconic building into a hotel, restaurant, bar and event space.
Steve St. George, owner of S. St. George Enterprises, is teaming up with restaurant partner Devin Jones to take on the project, which local officials are touting after a four-year effort to save the property at 52 E. Main St.
The 155-year-old structure – a three-story white building – is a centerpiece of the Chautauqua County village and has been continuously operated as a hotel for nearly a century. But it has languished without an active owner for several years and has fallen into some neglect, after its former owner lost it to foreclosure by New Jersey-based lender JG Funding Corp. It has been closed since 2017.
People also read…
“We’ve worked behind the scenes for nearly four years to help catalyze a positive outcome for the hostel,” said Mark Geise, County Deputy Director for Economic Development and CEO of the County’s Industrial Development Agency. Chautauqua. “After several attempts blocked by other interested parties, I am confident that Mr. St. George’s efforts will be successful. Steve does nothing by halves.
St. George and Jones intend to acquire the historic site from JG Funding for an undisclosed price before launching their $2.5-3 million redevelopment effort.
The sale is expected to close soon, Geise said. The project is expected to last around a year, with the goal of reopening the White Inn by late 2023 or early 2024.
“I know what the White Inn means to the community, and I want to do everything in my power to restore it and once again make it a point of pride in the community,” said St. George, president of its family building services. and a product company, which focused on public infrastructure and housing development. “My team and I know what we are getting into and are up for the challenge.”
Originally built by the White family in 1868 as their home, the building was expanded, converted and opened to guests in 1920 as the White Inn. It still retains many of the original architectural details that have been preserved, including sheet metal ceilings, various fireplaces, cornices and paneling.
The 25,000-square-foot building has 24 rooms and suites furnished, with antique four-poster beds, iron beds, and wardrobes. The first floor includes a large restaurant and dining room, a banquet hall and lounge, as well as a large kitchen area to accommodate a large number of guests.
It’s the only hotel in the middle of Fredonia, so its closure left a gaping hole for the community and especially for neighboring SUNY Fredonia State, which had previously commissioned a study by Core Distinction Group that found “a need immediate” for an upper mid-range. hotel in the area. Visitors and tourists to the area currently have few options, forcing many to stay at hotels closer to Buffalo, officials noted.
“This is great news,” said Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel. “The economic impact this will have on the village, the university, the county and the region will be significant.”
The announcement follows other local development initiatives, such as the opening of the National Comedy Center, the construction of the Lodge at Chautauqua Lake in Mayville and the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron – built by Buffalo-based Hart Hotels and the Krog band from Orchard Park. Wells Enterprise has also invested in Fieldbrook Foods, as well as the new drug manufacturing plant in Dunkirk.
Additionally, the renovation will also complement the Village’s downtown redevelopment efforts, including more than $4 million in public investments in streetscape and walking improvements, renovation of the historic Barker Common and improvements to the opera house and performing arts center from 1891.
“The White Inn is the heart of our downtown, and without it, our main street has suffered tremendously,” said Fredonia Mayor Doug Essek.
The property had been marketed by Hanna’s sales agents, Paula Blanchard and David Doerr, after previous attempts to find a buyer failed. A request for proposals brought bids from two candidates, but one dropped out, leaving an out-of-town bidder with whom officials were preparing to negotiate when St. George suddenly called Geise and intervened. The other bidder then withdrew.
“He sat backstage for a long time and called just in time,” Geise said. “This guy is doing it for all the right reasons. He’s not doing it to get rich. He’s just doing it because he likes the challenge and it’s for the community, and he knows how important that is. . It’s a great privilege.”
Geise said St. George will install a new kitchen and may re-evaluate room layouts in the building.
The project will be funded with the support of a $519,448 capital grant from Empire State Development Corp. The project is also seeking incentives from other agencies.