In the wake of a disheartening fire more than two years ago, the owner of the former Cristina’s Restaurant & Lounge on Ellicott Street plans to re-invigorate his property – by giving it away.
Chuck Brumsted says it’s time to see the remains of his restaurant made useful again.
“Without all the community support we had through (25) years, what Cristina’s was wouldn’t have been possible,” Brumsted says. “So we’d like to take the property as-is and donate it to a not-for-profit organization. And that way it stays in the community, and hopefully a majority of the people will be able to use it.”
He bought the building at 230 Ellicott St. in 1984.
“I basically put the building together…through numerous additions; it was a wreck when I acquired it,” he says.
For 25 years, Brumsted operated the restaurant, gaining notoriety in the area and attracting such big governmental names as Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo.
Then in 2008, tragedy struck. A destructive early-morning blaze ripped through the main building. It was declared a total loss and was eventually torn down, leaving an empty lot next to the also-damaged banquet hall.
The cause of that fire was never discovered. Brumsted declines to speak anymore about the fire.
“We don’t want to live in the past."
And so, moving forward with the property is his goal. In all, he estimates about 9,000 square feet is available, including a 5,000-square-foot, non-combustible masonry building.
“One of the ideas that’s been entertained is to take the part that was a two-story frame building, and make green space, a park-like setting. Then take the building that’s left, open up the east wall, and make an open amphitheater.”
Another idea is for a non-profit to simply acquire it and rent the space out for private parties or wedding receptions. Those are just a few of the many ideas Brumsted envisions for the site; he listed off 10 different proposals in a row. None of it is final, of course: Brumsted hasn’t yet secured a non-profit to donate to.
Whatever the cause, Brumsted says he hasn’t even considered any monetary loss he may absorb by giving it away.
“That hasn’t even been discussed. It’d be an honor and a privilege to see the building stay intact and have years and years of use. It’d be a great memory of Cristina’s.”
Any non-profit organization interested in Chuck Brumsted’s offer is asked to contact him by calling (585) 356-0927.
PHOTOS: top, Cristina's today; inset, Cristina's before fire (courtesy Chuck Brumsted); bottom, re-development plans for former Cristina's site (courtesy Chuck Brumsted).