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Village rebirth praised

With the business district spruced up, new businesses came to town, and many of the formerly vacant large industrial sites became thriving businesses. The former Tufflite factory is now an art gallery and antiques co-op, a former school building is now Reserve America, and the former Bischoff's Chocolate factory houses offices and a popular restaurant.

"If you look at the village today, all our large commercial sites have been transformed into viable businesses employing large numbers of people," said Romano. "Our storefront vacancy rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years. We've worked with neighboring towns to rebuild those bridges of trust, and a spirit of cooperation, not confrontation. We're grateful to everyone for helping the village turn this corner."

BSBPA president Cliff Baum is himself an investor who took a chance on the village when he took over the Coffee Planet five years ago. The eclectic, artsy shop is now one of the most popular spots in the village for tea, bagels, music and meeting up with friends.

"This community works together, and everything is a joint effort," said Baum. "People come with compassion and vision and the ability to work hard, and it's been a rebirth for all of us. We've gone from a drive through village to a drive-to village."

The breakfast meeting was held at the professional building at 199 Milton Ave., recently renovated by Rory O'Connor, president of Saratoga Real Property. The building is the former Masonic Lodge in the village in the 1950s, and is itself an example of an old building being given new life.

O'Connor said when he purchased the 100-year-old building, his goal was to have it restored by the village's bicentennial celebration this year. The classic Queen Anne Victorian survived several fires in the 1980s, but was nearly removed from the downtown village landscape.

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