By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Done right, said Liz Colvin, a transport hub can transform an entire city.
“In Binghamton, the bus station was in a really low-income neighborhood and it was not a nice place to be,” said Colvin, Wendel Companies’ senior project manager assigned to the Oneonta project. “But with our plan, they took a whole city block, redeveloped it, and now there’s retail, a diner that people come to even if they’re not taking a bus, even the DMV put their offices in there.”
Wendel presented its concepts to renovate city’s downtown parking deck, as well create a transit hub, during a special Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 22.
“You want to be welcomed into the city,” said Sean Beachy, project architect. “A transit center can maintain that urban edge and create an active center along Market Street.”
Two concepts were presented.
The first would incorporate the transit hub, including seven covered bays for both Oneonta Public Transit and Trailways buses, a taxi area, a “kiss-n-ride” drop-off – “you give them a kiss and off they go to the bus,” said Beachy – and an improved waiting area with restrooms and OPT office spaces.
“The storefront on Main Street does not provide appropriate space for offices or passengers,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “There are safety issues, and this is something we are sorely in need of.”
The parking garage would also be renovated, improving lighting, fixing leaks, firming up the structure and adding an elevator.
“The need for renovation is obvious to anyone who has ever used our parking garage,” said Herzig.
“There are leaks, it’s dingy, there’s no elevator access. It’s not a very inviting space.”
The first concept was the less expensive one: $4.54 million in rehab and $5.75 million for the transit hub. In all, $10.3 million.
However, Beachy cautioned, it would mean a loss of 40-80 parking spaces from the lower level.
The second option would renovate the parking garage and establish the bus bays, as well as build a new transportation hub at 27 Market St., site of the former Oneonta Ford.
The back the building would be tiered green space. “My vision is that families could sit there, they could watch a movie on an outdoor screen, the kids could run around,” said Beachy. “I enjoy going to places like that, and I see this as a huge opportunity.”
Additionally, he said, that space could be developed for further retail adjacent to Clinton Plaza. “Transit hubs spur economic development,” said Colvin. “It’s like they say – if you build it, they will come.”
The cost of the second option is $13.3 million, with $8.75 million for the transit hub.
“The second option is preferable,” said Herzig. “When they came to us with the plan to put it in the parking garage, I told them that it cannot be our only option if we’re going to lost 40-80 parking spaces.”
The city has $8 million from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, state and federal Departments of Transportation, and CFA grants, as well as $.5 million from Restore New York to demolish Oneonta Ford.
Currently the building is owned by the Twelve Tribes, but Herzig said a deal is nearing completion.
The presentation and designs will be available on the city website, and public comment will be accepted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org until 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30.
From there, Wendel will finalize its report and present it to Common Council, who will decide how to move forward.