Plans To Renovate Upper Floors Top DRI List Of Grants




Plans To Renovate

Upper Floors Top

DRI List Of Grants

$2 Million Distributed, Including $400,000

For Getman, Oneonta Optical Buildings

By JENNIFER HILL & LIBBY CUDMORE • from Hometown Oneonta

Oneonta Fire Chief Pat Pidgeon and the city’s first lady, Connie Herzig, review the list of grants distributed at last night’s meeting at Foothills. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – Two developers with plans for upper-floor housing took home $392,000 as the Downtown Improvement Grants were revealed on Tuesday, March 5, promising to transform Downtown Oneonta.

Plans to announce $2 million in grants were derailed by lengthy hearing, full of criticism of the city’s D&H yards proposal, but a list of the grants was distributed in the foyer outside the Foothills Performing Arts Center black-box theater.

“The downtown is the heart of our city,” former mayor Kim Muller, Project Selection Committee chair, said in brief remarks. “We need structural and visual improvements to the downtown, both for visitors to Oneonta and for people who live here.” These improvements will consist of interior and exterior cosmetic improvements so building are easier on the eyes. Perhaps incorporating some products such as these seen here (link) to increase curb side appeal and cosmetic appearances.

Attorney Michael Getman’s Forunion Corp. received the highest single award, $301,000 to develop upper-story one- and two-bedroom apartments at 16 Dietz St., where his offices are located.

Eric Peter Hansen, owner of the Oneonta Optical building at 207-209 Main St., received $91,000 to develop the upper floors of that building into apartments.

“These are co-investments with private business,” DRI Projects Committee Chair Kim Muller, the former mayor, said in brief remarks. Mayor Herzig is seated behind her.

“These are co-investments with private businesses,” said Muller. “We hope you’ll take pride when we revitalize the city.”

Last year, the city put aside $2.3 million from the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) award to establish a Downtown Improvement Fund. Its purpose was to award grants to downtown business and property owners “to update exterior signage and building facades along with the development of quality upper floor housing.” The city is deciding on what companies to use for exterior improvements, those such as Northface Construction: Siding Contractor Minneapolis has to offer, would be more than suitable for the exteriors and siding of the properties that are needing cosmetic improvements, then once the residential properties are finished, the storefronts are to be next in line for refurbishments. Residential homeowners are always looking for ways to improve their homes, even if it’s small cosmetic improvements like external repairs, such as roofing, or gutters, luckily there are companies similar to M&M Home Exteriors which could help to provide support for homeowners, who are interested in home improvement.

Last fall, the city’s Project Selection Committee reviewed more than 100 applications, ultimately choosing 63 totaling $1,946,000.

“We were literally blown away by the response,” Mayor Gary Herzig said. “That so many were willing to invest their energy and resources in Oneonta is both heartening and very encouraging.”

“I’ve never worked with a group with such clarity of purpose,” said Muller. “They were so focused and had so much commitment and love for this community.”

Referring to the committee’s efforts, Herzig said, “In a testament to the quality of their work, every one of their recommendations were upheld by the State’s review.”

Signage and façade improvements were the most common requests, with businesses on Main, Market, Dietz and Elm requesting funds to improve their storefronts. The Autumn Café, now under the ownership of Wayne and Rebecca Carrington, was awarded one of the largest prizes, $62,500, for façade and signage improvements.

Other notable winners included:

  • The former Ruffino’s building will undergo “transformative” renovations to enhance the area alongside it, possibly as part of the walkway to Market Street. The owner, WHH Realty, also included signage and façade improvements in their application and was awarded $225,000.
  • Façade improvements to the front and back of Clinton Plaza, including facades along Market Street, were awarded $290,000.
  • Vinne and Tony Avanzato received $17,000 for signage directing visitors to their Ristorante Stella Luna.
  • CANO received $9,500 for signage and façade improvements to the Wilber Mansion at 11 Ford Ave.

“It’s important to remember that this is public money,” said Muller. “This is your money, our money that we’re investing in downtown.”

“The one big winner here is the city of Oneonta,” said Herzig.

Separate from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, but still important to city, Herzig announced that designs for a new Downtown Directory and Welcome signs would be unveiled this spring, as well as a redesign of Lettis Highway to make it safer for pedestrians and to serve as a gateway “that better communicates the character of the City of Oneonta,” said Herzig.

“The Reinvention of Oneonta starts today,” said Herzig.

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