You know, of course:
Creativity is making something out of nothing.
Or, better, recognizing potential where nobody else does.
The scoop in last week’s paper is a case in point: A group calling itself The Market Street Alliance is proposing a distillery in the former Oneonta Ford building, that dreary, long-empty, black-painted hulk at the foot of Chestnut Street, across from Foothills.
But that’s just the beginning: The idea is to make it a centerpiece for a downtown Oneonta transformed into a beverage center, with breweries, wineries, even mead-makers. (Yes, mead, that honey-based brew quaffed by King Hrothgar and his knights.)
The local CPA and investor in the prospective distillery, Johna Peachin, got the idea from a visit to her son in Walla Walla, Wash., where she participated in a
monthly Sip & Stroll event.
At the Walla Walla – “twice as nice,” promoters say – Downtown Foundation, Events Manager Cindy Frost says her region is
being marketed these days as
“The New Napa Valley.”
There are over 100 wineries in the Walla Walla valley, and three-dozen wineries have tasting rooms in the downtown, attracting top-tier restaurants and hotels there.
Last summer, the foundation came up with the idea of the Sip & Stroll, which has just finished its second May-to-September season.
One evening a month, the wineries waive the fee on their tastings, and about 100 people have been buying $10 tickets to partake. Many participants, of course, then buy a glass or two, shop, dine, etc., making it worthwhile for the downtown establishments.
The evening’s a magnet, which is what every downtown wants.
The $1,000 revenue is used to promote the event, Frost said.
Peachin said she and fellow investors have a sales agreement with the Twelve Tribes, the religious community that owns the adjacent Yellow Deli.
She mentioned Ken Wortz, an owner of Kymar Distillery in Charlotteville, Delaware County, as an investor. And landlord Brian Shaughnessy and businessman Al Rubin accompanied her to the July 26 Otsego Now meeting where the original pitch was made.
The timeliness may not be great – just a few days before this news broke, Peachin had exploded negotiations between the Town of Oneonta Fire District and City Hall. City officials may not be too interested in accommodating her right now.
Still, the idea is intriguing.
Hold on a minute.
As outlined on this week’s front page, City Hall and the DRI (the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative), see the Oneonta Ford site as THE prime prospect for Artspace.
Artspace is that Minneapolis-based national entity that has been creating combinations of housing and studio space for artists across the nation since 1987. (Check www.artspace.org; very exciting.)
The colleges are active partners, seeing Artspace as a way to attract students; City Hall, as a way to keep them here after graduation. Doesn’t downtown Oneonta as an art magnet sounds much more enticing than Oneonta as a beer and liquor magnet, which, to a degree, it already is?
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig low-keys it: It’s the preferred site, but if the Twelve Tribes has another deal, the DRI, the most exciting news for the City of the Hills in a century, will just look somewhere else.
Come on. Are we serious or aren’t we? The state has already committed $3.5 million to cleaning up the Oneonta Ford property and building something new there, with more – likely – to come.
Enough dithering. Common Council should man and woman up, condemn what’s been an eyesore and a hazard for decades, pay the fair market value, and get started.
The Peachin group may make it work; but it may not.
If it doesn’t, the site could be locked up for decades to come. Our great-grandchildren will be seeing the same mess we are today, only moreso. Does anyone want that?
If Peachin’s creativity spurs City Hall – finally – into action, she certainly will deserve the community’s thanks and
Question: Can Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s administration make tough decisions?
For one thing, whether or not to condemn the Twelve Tribes’ blighted Oneonta Ford property has been hanging fire since before Herzig took office. He’s now in his second term.
There is state money in hand to demolish what is a public hazard and state money to prepare the site for new construction. All that’s hanging fire is a tough decision.
Now, the April 30 deadline to clear out the venerable but – city inspectors have found – dangerous Oneonta Hotel is passed. Where’s the decision that’s been promised for months?
City Hall’s Board of Public Service declared the property unsafe in January 2017, 16 months ago. And still the building is occupied, and businesses are functioning on the ground floor.
You have to ask, what’s City Hall’s liability –and that of local taxpayers — if a fire or some other misfortune were to happen?
It’s past time to make a tough decision. Question: Can the Herzig Administration make it?
Question 2: Common Council has barely debated any issue publicly in months. Where are the Council members?
ONEONTA – Rev. Teressa Sivers, pastor of the First United Methodist Church since 2008, has announced that she is leaving the Oneonta church in late June to lead the United Methodist Church in Ithaca.
Common Council plans to honor Pastor Sivers’ Tuesday, as part of the ceremony for the 2018 Woman Trailblazers at 6:15 p.m. in City Hall. The Trailblazers are selected annually by the the City Commission on Community Relations and Human Rights; Sivers has been a commission member during much of her tenure here.
Being honored as Trailblazers are Caroline Bagby and Jocelyn Plows in the Under 25 category, and Rachel Lutz Jessup in the Over 25 category.
Schools, City Hall Closed As Storm Stella Blankets State
ONEONTA – With schools, the Huntington Library and City Hall closed, Oneonta has effectively taken a snow day for Winter Storm Stella.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a State of Emergency for all 62 counties in New York, and locally, Mayor Gary Herzig has asked all residents to avoid any unnecessary travel. “To protect the safety of all, Oneonta residents should stay home on Tuesday unless travel is essential,” he wrote in a release. “The City is prepared to clear our roads; however, conditions may be treacherous. Please stay tuned to local media for the potential of road closings. All persons should also exercise extreme care and err on the side of caution when shoveling or otherwise removing snow.”
ONEONTA – For now, at least, plans to expand the Susquehanna Greenway are dead.
“The city would have to come up with $40,000 just to do a redesign,” said Council member Melissa Nicosia, Second Ward, who brought the resolution to suspend the project from the Community Development Committee. “We would have to start the work by September and finish in January. It’s just not in the best interest of the city.”
The resolution, which passed unanimously at tonight’s Common Council meeting, suspended the proposed plan to expand the Greenway in both directions for improved access and trails from South Main Street. “We’ve had flooding since we originally designed the project,” said Nicosia. “The plans we had no longer work. And with the timeline, it’s just not feasible.”
ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig has changed the special meeting to brief Common Council on fire-contract negotiations with the Town of Oneonta Fire District #1 to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday). The meeting is open to the public.
By telephone, the mayor was able to poll seven of eight Council members last Thursday, after state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma extended the city-town contract until Valentine’s Day, and directed both entities to continue negotiations. They agreed to Coccoma’s directive; this meeting is to formalize that agreement.
Before the extension, City Hall and Fire District #1 had until Thursday at midnight to agree to a contract, or there would be no coverage in the town from New Year’s Day on.