News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.

Downtown Revitalization Initiative

Main Street, Lettis Highway Vision for Oneonta in 2019


This Year, Oneonta

Will Bloom With DRI

Money, Mayor Says

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, center, touted plans for a forthcoming re-design of Main Street as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative, with work slated to begin this spring. With him on the panel, from right, are Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and state Senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, speaking at the annual State of the State Breakfast, hosted by the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Senator Seward said, when downstate gets something, Upstate must as well.

ONEONTA – This will be the year, Mayor Gary Herzig said, that the City of Oneonta begins to see the results of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grants

“In 60 days, we’ll unveil the redesign of our downtown,” he said. “And this redesign is not by City Hall, but by 80 downtown business owners who have submitted proposals for $2.5 million in funding for improvements. This is a downtown made possibly by the energy of our local businesses.”

Herzig, alongside Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, spoke at the annual State of the State breakfast, hosted by the Otsego County Chamber this morning at SUNY Oneonta’s Morris Hall.

50 At Foothills For Artspace Public Forum

50 At Foothills For

Artspace Public Forum

Wendy Holmes, Artspace senior VP/consulting & strategic partnerships, addresses the 50 citizens gathered at the Artspace public comment forum this evening at Foothills. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Rylee Willsey, Otego, and other members of the Elite Dance Academy were one of several acts showcasing a sample of Oneonta’s performing arts scene.

ONEONTA – If you call yourself an artist, you are welcome at Artspace.

“People think they have to have a fine arts degree to consider themselves an artist,” said Anna Growcott, Director, consulting and strategic partnerships for Artspace. “But we don’t feel that way. If you think you’re doing something creative, we agree.”

More than 50 citizens turned out for Artspace’s public forum this evening, concluding the first day of tours, focus groups and a performance by several local dance troupes. Earlier in the day, 31 artists shared their vision for the project, including community spaces, live/work studios and galleries.

Artspace, Meet Artists!


Meet Artists!

Focus Groups Underway Today, Thursday

Carol Mandigo of Catskill Puppet Theater and the painter responsible for the murals on the side of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, explains to the visiting members of Artspace that her rented studio space is inadequate and that increased support for working artists is not only wanted but needed in Oneonta.  To her right are James McKilroy, Nathaniel Francisco and Madeline Walker. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Anna Growcott, director, consulting and strategic partnerships with Artspace, keeps track of everyone’s ideas.

ONEONTA – Whether they were painters, metalworkers, glassblowers or sculptors, many of the 31 gathered at the first Artspace focus group had one thing in common.

They were all using their own homes as their creative space.

“I do wood-burning at my dining room table,” said Anne Vrooman.

“I practice my dance and music in my living room,” said Elizabeth Raphaelson, owner of the Underground Attic.

“I’m trying to record music while the garbage trucks are driving around,” said James McIlroy.

Artspace, the Minneapolis-based not-for-profit, is in the city for three days, meeting with focus groups, touring sites and assessing whether or not one of their buildings – which offers low-cost live/work space for artists, community rooms and storefronts – would be a welcome addition to Oneonta’s downtown.

Isn’t It Time For City To Act, Or Get Out Of The Way?

Editorial for October 5, 2018

Isn’t It Time For City To Act,

Or Get Out Of The Way?

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.

The Freeman’s Journal – If entrepreneurial Market Street Alliance can revive Oneonta Ford as a distillery, fine. But what if in can’t? “My concern is the building will sit as it is for very many years to come,” said Mayor Herzig.

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; 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

Oneonta Revitalization Kicks Off With Foothills Meeting

Property Owners Briefed

On $2.3 Million In Grants

Entrepreneurs and downtown Oneonta building owners are being briefed today on how to apply for $2.3 million in state money available for facade improvements, signage and renovation of upper floors for market-rate house as part of the city’s state-funded Downtown Revitalizatoin Initiative (DRI).   The last of three briefings being conducted by Delaware Engineering’s Elizabeth Horvath is at 6 p.m. in the black box theater at Foothills Performing Arts Center.  Public welcome. Applications for signs are due by July 31, with all other applications are due by Aug. 31.  A project selection committee will decide on projects this fall.  (Parker Fish/
In DRI Era, Historical Society Opens Urban Renewal Exhibit

In DRI Era, Historical Society

Opens Urban Renewal Exhibit

Against a backdrop of aerial photos from the Urban Renewal era, Bob Brzozowski, Greater Oneonta Historical Society executive director, welcomes visitors to “Urban Redevelopment: Oneonta’s Downtown in the ’60s and ’70s,” this afternoon at the opening reception.  The aerial photos, showing the City of the Hills before and after a few dozen downtown buildings were demolished, was designed to provide historical perspective as the city moves forward with its DRI, the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.  The aerials were in the former Common Council conference room, and became available when the space was converted into City Manager George Korthauer’s office.  At right is an architect’s drawing of a 10-story apartment house proposed for what is now Muller Plaza. (Jim Kevlin/


Past, Present, Future

Of Downtown Oneonta


DRI WALKING TOUR – 7 p.m. Explore Main and Market Street areas covered by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative with Mayor Gary Herzig and the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. Learn about the Past, Present, and Future of Downtown Oneonta. Call (607)432-0960 or visit

THEATER – 7 p.m. The Glimmer Globe Theater presents William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. Call (607) 547-1492 or visit

Oneonta Featured In New York Times

Oneonta Featured

In New York Times

Shoppers on Main Street were photographed for the New York Times article on Oneonta’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (Nathaniel Brooks for the New York Times)

ONEONTA – An article highlighting Oneonta’s $10 Million Downtown Revitalization Initiative made the NY Region section of the New York Times yesterday.

Headlined, “For Oneonta’s Aging Downtown, a $10 Million Face-Lift,” Lisa W. Foderaro’s article focuses on Mayor Gary Herzig’s efforts to bring young renters and shoppers back to Oneonta’s downtown by renovating historic buildings, upgrading signage and increasing housing offerings.

“We’re very lucky in that our downtown is beautiful and historic and it’s mostly still intact,” Herzig told the paper. “We are the largest city in a 50- to 60-mile radius. Really what we need are more people to live in our downtown, to be visiting our downtown and to work downtown.”


Westcott Lot Tops Wish List


Westcott Lot Tops Wish List

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul announced the Downtown Revitalization Projects that would be funded, including the Transportation Hub, the redevelopment of the Westcott Lot and enhanced signage for downtown during  a presentation at Foothills this afternoon. (Ian Austin/
Cuomo Administration OKs Oneonta Revitalization Ideas

Cuomo Administration OKs

Oneonta Revitalization Ideas

Replacing the former Oneonta Ford building, left, with a new Food & Beverage Innovation Center, including three stories of apartments, won the Cuomo Admnistration’s approval.

ONEONTA – After review, the Department of State today released the final City of Oneonta Revitalization plan, spreading $14 million in seed capital over 14 projects and downtown initiatives.

The 149-page document appears to include the major front-burner projects that have been part of the public discussion for months, including the Food & Beverage Innovation Center and redevelopment of the D&H Yards.

“A public informational meeting will be scheduled this spring to discuss both the plan and the planning process ahead,” said Mayor Gary Herzig.


Small Business Support, Signage Westcott Lot Top DRI Projects

Small-Business Support, Signs,

Westcott Lot Top DRI Projects

Marc Wouters, director of urban design for Stantec, presents the findings of the public hearing and subcommittees during a meeting of the DRI committee this afternoon (Ian Austin/


ONEONTA – The redevelopment of the Westcott Lot, new signage on Main Street, upper-floor apartments and, the centerpiece – the Mohawk Valley Food & Beverage Innovation District – were all recommended for a piece of the $10 million DRI funding by Stantec and the three Downtown Revitalization Initiative subcommittees during their annual meeting this afternoon.

“No one person in this group will get everything they want,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “But, this is only the beginning. If we spend the $10 million dollars right we will all grow and the return on our investment will be far beyond $10 million.”

Grocery Store, Highline Pitched At Public Engagement Meeting

Grocery Store, High Line Ideas

At Public-Engagement Meeting

John Rafter, Nancy Kleniewski, Gary Lang, Ruth Allen, Dennis Finn and Pat Pidgeon look over a map of downtown and discuss important focal points they would like to see for downtown revitalization. (Ian Austin/
From left, Common Council member John Rafter, SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski, Outlaws owner Gary Laing, Ruth Allen, Dennis Finn and Fire Chief Pat Pidgeon look over a map of downtown and discuss focal points they would like to see addressed by downtown revitalization. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – A grocery store.  A high line, an elevated walking trail overlooking murals and mosaics.  More sports in Neahwa Park.

These were some of the ideas presented in the Foothills atrium at tonight’s Public Engagement Meeting, sponsored by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative Local Planning Committee.

“We’d love to see more artistic spaces with murals,” said Carol Mandigo, the local muralist.  “We’re thinking an elevated walkway down to Market Street – like the High Line in New York City – where people could look over murals on the walls of Foothills.”

Walkable Oneonta Envisioned With ‘Complete Streets’ Talk

Walkable Oneonta Envisioned

With ‘Complete Streets’ Talk

Lynae Wyckoff, a local coordinator for the Complete Streets initiative, shares her findings with Oneonta Common Council during tonight's meeting. (Ian Austin/
Lynae Wyckoff, a local coordinator for the Complete Streets initiative, shares her findings with Oneonta Common Council during tonight’s meeting. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Maureen Blanchard and Lynae Wyckoff envision Oneonta as a walkable, bikeable, wheelchair-friendly city.

“People want to live, work, pray, eat and shop in places that they can get to by walking or biking,” said Wyckoff, a senior health educator at Bassett.  “By improving access to people of all mobility levels, cities see so many benefits.”

The two representatives presented “Complete Streets: Is The City Of Oneonta Ready” before Common Council this evening in hopes that the city would adopt a Complete Streets policy in their Downtown Revitalization efforts.

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