A New Jersey man who has emerged as a major downtown Oil City property owner offered a broad vision on how he intends to "bring back Oil City" but was short on specifics during a public meeting Saturday.
Milan Adamovsky, 41, drew about 50 people to his self-styled town meeting designed to "discuss, network and envision" the city's future with local residents. It was held at the former Grandview Estates furniture store building on Center Street.
The software engineer bought five North Side properties - 308 Seneca St., 220 Seneca St., 202 Center St., 217 Seneca St. and 106 Center St. - over the past three months.
Adamovsky, a native of Prague in the Czech Republic, was drawn to the area while in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where he purchased two properties, the Coventry Inn and Heritage House Suites, last year.
In closing those deals, he noticed various property listings in Oil City while scrolling realty sites on the internet.
Adamovsky contacted Linda Carbaugh of the Howard Hanna Rosewood Real Estate office in Seneca and soon launched his Oil City buying spree. He set up a Facebook page - Bring Back Oil City Pa. - and invited those who signed up to attend Saturday night's gathering.
"We want to celebrate what we want to do," said Adamovsky, who ushered his guests to a table filled with flutes of champagne and trays of caviar and then raised his glass up. "Here's a toast to a new beginning."
'You can't be wishy-washy'
In a lengthy and sometimes rambling talk, Adamovsky told the group, "I want our imagination to run wild on what we can achieve. Everyone said I was crazy ... and some (on Facebook) said I was a scammer. But we can have crazy ideas and make them happen."
Adamovsky said he believes any city regeneration effort must emphasize the area's history and natural resources in an effort to make the city "a destination."
"It's depressed, yes, but the city is beautiful. The buildings I bought have great architecture," he said. "With the hills, nature and landscape, the natural resources - Why can't Oil City be the Poconos of the west?"
Adamovsky was critical of some residents' entries on his social media site that he said were negative and vague.
"There are too many 'I wish' comments and that won't make anything happen. You can't be wishy-washy with what we want to see here. Come to me with ideas and solutions," he said. "Yes, there are risks and no guarantees but regardless, let's enjoy the ride."
While encouraging cooperation, Adamovsky insisted, "I don't like to have partners. We don't want naysayers because we are going to do this. That's a handicap for me but I know (partnerships) come with strings attached."
The property owner also made clear his intentions for the Oil City investments.
"I'm not here to solve social problems, although that might be a byproduct. I'm in it for a business aspect. I want a return on my investment so ... I can reinvest and fill up other spaces. I am here for creating revenue," he said.
Adamovsky said he believes Oil City can be a technical hub and offered, "I can help, with my corporation and others, to get the skills here. ... But first, I want to develop businesses that families can take their kids to."
In a surprising take on the city's configuration, Adamovsky said, "The North Side should be the business center ... and the South Side should become the 'village of Oil City' and a really thriving creative community. The South Side is a bit more intimate while the North Side has the infrastructure."
On specifics, Adamovsky said he is intent on obtaining a liquor license - "the key to rebuilding the economy is to serve alcohol because no one wants a steak and a drink of water" - and buying more properties because "I'm not going anywhere." He said his first business venture here will be "an ice cream parlor, ... with chandeliers", at 106 Center St.
While he is on a quest to draw in new businesses, he is not necessarily going to be the owner or operator of those enterprises.
"I'm not interested in opening a business. I want to run the strategic part," Adamovsky told the group. "And if you have a business, I can help develop it."
'There are no guarantees'
The question of finances, particularly those associated with repairing and renovating buildings he bought, drew a mixed response.
"Working capital? It is very dynamic," said Adamovsky. "Would I walk away? There are no guarantees, to you or to me. I am at least trying, putting all my resources into this. No banks are helping me."
Pressed on that topic, he added, "I'm not asking for handouts. If you have resources I can tap into, that's great and I will pay it back. And, I'm asking for you not to take advantage of me if you want to help with my buildings. I'm willing to pay anyone who will help and they will be paid something fair."
Adamovsky alluded to his personal finances during the presentation. He did not identify his company or the properties he owns elsewhere.
"I'm packing up all my houses and condos because I'm on the road," he said, later adding he had "high rises on the Hudson" and has investments "in other cities in Europe."
Noting he intends to hold monthly gatherings with supporters, Adamovsky said, "I called for this so we can do this. I'm only the guy who is beating the drum. I want to drive the strategy. I don't have a business plan. I just adapt to what's in front of me. I have a vision."
'Give him a chance'
Rebecca Deal, a local business owner who volunteered to help Adamovsky set up Saturday's meeting, said she is "optimistically reserved" about the New Jersey man's campaign to revitalize Oil City.
"We need as a community to give him a chance. Certainly, there's a lot of speculation and an outsider is not always accepted. But it wouldn't hurt to see what he can do," she said.
Steve Warner, co-owner of the Odd Fellows building that Adamovsky bought, said he has confidence in the buyer's campaign to help the city.
"People would come to town, buy stuff, let it go to waste and then go away," he said. "I believe he will bring it back. He's for real. He's here to do business and I think he will make it happen. I hope everyone will support him," said Warner.
Carbaugh, who Adamovsky described as his local contact, said her client's outlook impressed her.
"I never looked at Oil City the way he did - he opened my eyes in really looking at the city and its buildings," she said. "He showed me what Oil City could be. He's for real. I suggest you see what he is seeing and really look at it differently."
One woman said she hopes Adamovsky is successful and added, "It's nice to have someone put up something for these buildings. It's great."
Bob Kellner, owner of the former Welker & Maxwell building on the city's South Side, attended Saturday's gathering.
"Milan asked what can bring Oil City back and I believe it is jobs for our young people," he said. "The number of people who are here gives me hope that Oil City can turn around."
There was some hesitancy shown about Adamovsky's insistence that he be the lead "strategizer" overseeing business growth.
"I think there's a little control issue here," said one local business owner after Adamovsky's talk. "It seems like he wants to have control of the existing businesses, too, and that's uncomfortable for me."