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Big Grants Go To Upgrading Upper Floors

Getman Receives Top Award



Two developers with plans for upper floor housing took home $392,000 as the Downtown Improvement Grants were revealed on Tuesday, March 5, promising to transform Downtown Oneonta.
Plans to announce $2 million in grants were derailed by lengthy hearing, full of criticism of the city’s D&H yards proposal, but a list of the grants was distributed in the foyer outside the Foothills Performing Arts Center black-box theater.
“The downtown is the heart of our city,” former mayor Kim Muller, Project Selection Committee chair, said in brief remarks. “We need structural and visual improvements to the downtown, both for visitors to Oneonta and for people who live here.”
Attorney Michael Getman’s Forunion Corp. received the highest single award, $301,000 to develop upper-story one- and two-bedroom apartments at 16 Dietz St., where his offices are located.
Eric Peter Hansen, owner of the Oneonta Optical building at 207-209 Main St., received $91,000 to develop the upper floors of that building into apartments.
“These are co-investments with private businesses,” said Muller. “We hope you’ll take pride when we revitalize the city.”
Last year, the city put aside $2.3 million from the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) award to establish a Downtown Improvement Fund. Its purpose was to award grants to downtown business and property owners “to update exterior signage and building facades along with the development of quality upper floor housing.”
Last fall, the city’s Project Selection Committee reviewed more than 100 applications, ultimately choosing 63 totaling $1,946,000.
“We were literally blown away by the response,” Mayor Gary Herzig said. “That so many were willing to invest their energy and resources in Oneonta is both heartening and very encouraging.”
“I’ve never worked with a group with such clarity of purpose,” said Muller. “They were so focused and had so much commitment and love for this community.”
Referring to the committee’s efforts, Herzig said, “In a testament to the quality of their work, every one of their recommendations were upheld by the State’s review.”
Signage and façade improvements were the most common requests, with businesses on Main, Market, Dietz and Elm requesting funds to improve their storefronts. The Autumn Café, now under the ownership of Wayne and Rebecca Carrington, was awarded one of the largest prizes, $62,500, for façade and signage improvements.
Other notable winners included:
• The former Ruffino’s building will undergo “transformative” renovations to enhance the area alongside it, possibly as part of the walkway to Market Street. The owner, WHH Realty, also included signage and façade improvements in their application and was awarded $225,000.
• Façade improvements to the front and back of Clinton Plaza, including facades along Market Street, were awarded $290,000.
• Vinne and Tony Avanzato received $17,000 for signage directing visitors to their Ristorante Stella Luna.
• CANO received $9,500 for signage and façade improvements to the Wilber Mansion at 11 Ford Ave.
“It’s important to remember that this is public money,” said Muller. “This is your money, our money that we’re investing in downtown.”


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