By LIBBY CUDMORE & JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – “Energizing.” “A Spark.” “New blood and vitality.”
That was how the audience at Common Council this evening described the proposed Lofts on Dietz, a multi-use project that would include artist’s housing and space for Hartwick College classrooms.
And when Common Council voted 7-1 to approve the sale of a portion of the city-owned lot to The Kearney Realty & Development Group, there was applause.
“This project checks a lot of boxes,” said Al Rubin, A&D Taxi. “We’ve had our failures in this city, but we need that spark. We have an opportunity and we need to seize it.”
“It brings in new blood and vitality to Oneonta,” said David Hayes. “It’s an inexpensive way to energize our downtown.”
Mayor Gary Herzig championed the proposal. “This is consistent with our comprehensive plan,” he said. “Oneonta is positioned to be a city of the future, and this is a strong step for young people who want to be innovative and creative.”
But not everyone was so moved. “I feel betrayed by this project,” said Johna Peachin, CPA, the Peachin Group. “I rely on that lot for my employees.”
Only Council member Michelle Osterhaudt, Ward Four, voted against the project. “I’ve talked to a lot of people and I don’t feel comfortable voting yes on this,” she said.
“I think we should think long and hard before we give that space away,” said Rick Wienberg, owner, Rental Company One. “The perceived parking problem is a real problem.”
Herzig himself counted spaces at various times of the day, and, at the meeting, passed around photos taken by drones piloted by Oneonta Job Corps students. At peak times, there were 108 vacant spaces.
In all, Herzig said, the portion of the lot sold to Kearny would take approximately 117 of the city’s 718 free parking spaces.
“I don’t think the loss of parking should stunt the project,” said Bob Brzozowski, “There’s enough blacktop downtown.”
Additionally, the sale of the lot will be contingent upon Kearney receiving all necessary approvals and funding.
“Your decision today is one of leadership,” said Al Cleinman, Cleinman Performance Partners. “Even if what’s right for the long haul is not desired by some.”