SEQRA To Start Next Month;
Groundbreaking Next Summer
By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Two citizens raised concerns about parking – a third called for “net zero” energy efficiency – when developer Ken Kearney outlined plans for a 64-unit art colony, The Lofts on Dietz, to the city Planning Commission last evening.
“As an artist, the building is an excellent concept, one we should embrace,” said Michael Stolzer, who lives in the Town of Oneonta but owns rental properties in the city. “But parking spaces are valuable. It seems kind of on the absurd side to build it on the parking lot.”
Mayor Gary Herzig saw it another way: “I truly hope we have a real parking problem, because it will mean we’re thriving and our businesses are successful,” he said as the meeting wrapped up.
Modeled after mixed-use developments Parkview Development & Construction, Kearney and his son Sean’s company, has built in Peekskill and Poughkeepsie, the Dietz Street building will have 40 artist lofts, 24 apartments for middle-income renters, a gallery for the artists’ work, and other amenities.
“For our development in Peekskill, there was no onsite parking for the building, so we designated about 65 permits for off-site parking spaces,” said Kearney, who had briefed Common Council on plans the evening before.
The plan for future Loft tenants’ parking is to lease spaces to them in the municipal parking garage, about 1,000 feet away.
Herzig said the city had commissioned an in-depth Oneonta Downtown Parking Study, which found the city “had an abundance of parking,” with “about 500 unused parking spaces out of a total of 1,091 spaces.”
The mayor said he “walked the Dietz parking lot 25 times over the past four months at different times of day,” and on the most filled day, he saw 80 empty spaces.
Another audience member, Mark Drnek, praised both “the architecture and location” of the Dietz Street building, but also worried about adequate parking, especially during snow emergencies. He proposed a parking deck behind the Lofts.
David Hutchison, retired Hartwick College professor longtime member of the city’s Environmental Board, urged Kearney to install a geothermal heating and cooling system in the Dietz Street building.
“We can and should make the building have net-zero energy, which means it would create more energy than using it,” Hutchison said. “It could become a model for net-zero energy.”
He said students, who make up half of Oneonta’s population, and artists – the prospective clientele – are interested in sustainable energy and the environment.
Planning Commission Vice Chair Edmond Overbey asked Kearney to look into geothermal, saying, “It’s time to go after net zero. Even if it means higher rents for the tenants, they won’t have utility bills, so the savings will offset the added costs.”
Kearney said he and his son would discuss “in depth” the possibility of installing geothermal with a NYSERDA consultant their company had used on a dozen development projects.
Council and Planning Commission member Dave Rissberger said, “I would ask everyone to look at the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the housing study. The Dietz Street development fulfills a definite need in Oneonta. Right now, the city’s property there gets zero tax money. The development puts it back on the tax rolls.”
The Kearneys and his son plan to model the Dietz Street after the mixed-use buildings in Peekskill and Poughkeepsie’s downtowns. Those formerly blighted areas have seen increased foot traffic, new restaurants and stores, and what Kearney calls “a synergy.”
Delaware Engineering, representing the Kearneys, is planning to initiate the SEQRA process in August, completing it in September. The idea is the break ground next summer.