By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – If you want a successful downtown, Elizabeth Horvath says, you have to look up.
“You need residents living downtown to make it an active place, not just come in, work and then leave,” she said. “When you see vacant second and third floors, it doesn’t lend itself to a vibrant Main Street.”
On Monday, June 3, the City of Oneonta began accepting applications for a second round of Downtown Revitalization Initiative grants, this one to create “high-quality
upper-story housing units” in the downtown.
As of presstime Tuesday evening, no applications had been received, but the deadline isn’t until July 12.
Building on that, said Project Selection chair Kim Muller, the second round aims to “catalyze the creation of high-quality housing that will attract more residents to our increasingly vibrant downtown.”
The goal, said Mayor Gary Herzig, is to fill an “unmet need for improved housing for young professionals and early retirees” in the “wealth of downtown buildings with vacant or underutilized upper stories.”
“If you walk down Main Street and look up, you see quite a few vacant floors,” he said.
The funds are to be used for market-rate, year-round housing. “There’s a shortage of housing for young professionals and retirees,” said Horvath. “We want the kind of housing like Chip Klugo and Brett Bresee built, that rented so fast.”
“We’re looking for no more than two bedrooms,” said Muller. “We want to see the kind of state-of-the-art kitchens and features that attract people who want this kind of housing.”
But it doesn’t have to be built from scratch.
“If a building owner wanted to convert, for instance, student rentals into year-round housing, that would be an eligible project,” said Herzig.
To qualify, the applicant must put together a plan including a current and proposed floor plan, a budget and a project scope. “We don’t need architectural blueprints, but we need enough to show that the project meets our guidelines,”he said.
However, priority will be given to more thorough plans. “If someone comes in with a full set of blueprints and an architect, they’re more likely to receive funding than someone who comes in with a project drawn on a proverbial cocktail napkin,” said Horvath.
In all, $400,000 in grants from the city’s Downtown Improvement Fund is available, left over from the $2.3 million awarded by the state for the project. The first round drew nearly 100 applications, with 63 projects ranging from new signage to a complete transformation of the Tomaino building receiving $1.9 million in funding.
The money can be used to cover up to 50 percent of project costs, said Horvath, with the owner putting in the remaining equity.
However, if any winners of the $2 million in the first round, announced in March, do not follow through, that money will be folded into the second round. “The total amount is not definitive,” said Herzig. “Depending on what projects are not followed through, it could be significantly more.”
Information and applications will be on the city’s website, or from Elizabeth Horvath, Delaware Engineering, at (607) 432-8073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.