TALKS UNDERWAY WITH SARKISIANS
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – With at least a decade since it was the focus of serious redevelopment interest, the intriguing Ford Block at Main and Muller Plaza, a signature downtown building, is again a focus of interest.
Mayor Gary Herzig said he’s spoken three times in the past few months with David Sarkisian, a member of the family real-estate and development firm in Binghamton that owns the property, and that the businessman is “very interested, very engaged” in adding “high-quality housing” to the upper two floors.
The building houses Key Bank’s downtown office at 202 Main, but the upper floors – looking out on Miller Plaza and up and down Main Street – have been unused for decades.
Two weeks ago, the city’s Downtown Redevelopment Initiative, funded to date with $14 million in state money, began accepting applications for $2.6 million to redevelop upper floors in the city’s Victorian downtown. Herzig said Sarkisian hasn’t yet submitted an application, but it’s early in the game.
Named for and developed by Eliakim Ford, one of the original town fathers, the 1860s structure has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984. The building narrowly escaped destruction during the Urban Renewal era, but was rescued by a group of businessmen in 1975.
A decade ago, Joe Bernier, then City Hall’s community development director, had identified funding that would have paid for a walkway across the back and installed an elevator, thus opening the upper floors to development. But the idea languished and was eventually set aside.