Cooperstown Village Board, IDA Plan
Citizen-Based Vision For Community
Editor’s Note: This article is republished from this week’s Freeman’s Journal, now on newsstands.
By JIM KEVLIN • allotsego.com
COOPERSTOWN – The future of Cooperstown may include offices, restaurants and hotels around Railroad Avenue, a green swath leading through what is now a parking lot to historic Doubleday Field, and a vibrant waterfront, part of seven redevelopment nodes being considered by the village’s Economic Sustainability Committee and the county Industrial Development Agency.
Whether it does – or another vision emerges – will grow out of a “Comprehensive Plan & Economic Development Revitalization Strategy” to be launched perhaps as soon as August, funded by $28,000 in IDA funding and, it is hoped, a $90,000 CFA – an economic development grant – being sought through the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Commission. The grant application was part of the round submitted Monday, June 16.
The idea of a plan and strategy emerged from discussions over the past few months among Mayor Jeff Katz, Trustees Lou Allstadt and Cindy Falk on the Village Board’s Economic Sustainability Committee, and Sandy Mathes, IDA president and “single point of contact” for economic development in the county.
“The idea is to be proactive, not reactive,” said the mayor. “That’s what we want to do.” Added Mathes, “The end result will be driven by the community.” Mathes said he will ask the IDA board at its July meeting to approve the initial allocation to allow the process to start. Whether the CFA is a go will not be known until perhaps October, and the money would not be available until perhaps January, but both he and Katz, in a combined interview, said they would like to get started. A first step would be to contract with Elan, a planning firm in Saratoga Springs that participated in that community’s heralded revival, to guide the process here. The “proposed scope of services” calls for formation of a public-private “advisory committee” to oversee Elan’s development of a detailed market analysis, including demographics, consumer spending, tourism and real-estate trends. That will result in a “physical enhancement strategy” in seven subdistricts (see chart, Page A7), encompassing pedestrian safety (crosswalks, lighting), public amenities (parks, landscaping, benches, signage) and parking. That will feed into “vision and goal development” and recommendations, which will be the basis for a draft revised comprehensive master plan and a downtown revitalization strategy. The whole process will be punctuated with opportunities for public input. “Having the support of residents and business owners will ensure its long-term success and may unearth a wealth of ideas and resources that could prove critical to the future of the village,” according to the scope of services document. “The whole community – whoever wants to – will participate in the process,” Mathes said. An early part of this would be a “charrette week” – a charrette is defined as “an intense period of design or planning” – where Elan would solicit “thoughts, ideas and concerns” about Cooperstown’s future. The week would begin with a public “ideas workshop” and end with a “work-in-progress presentation.” Other ways to involve the public, including a “consumer intercept survey,” will be planned throughout the process. In the interview with Katz and Mathes at Village Hall, the mayor said the village’s future prosperity involves changing a common “why bother, they’re going to say ‘no’” perception of the village. “That’s the mindset we want to break out of,” he said. “That is a destructive attitude everywhere.” The village’s economy is fine during the summer, he continued, but this strategy would seek to revive a year-‘round economy in the village, with a variety of businesses and stores. “I can tell you, from my experience, it’s been pretty nice working up here 12 months a year,” he said. For his part, Mathes said “there are no projects in the back pocket.” In fact, the information this planning process would yield is essential to attracting development here. “You have to show a legitimate business plan backed up by a market analysis,” he said. Since joining the IDA in January, Mathes said he has ranged the county, meeting key players and trying to gauge the temperatures of individual communities. “The atmosphere here is very positive,” he said. “Without that atmosphere, it’s hard to justify the investment of time necessary.”