Village Should Buy Former CVS, Make It Downtown Hub

EDITORIAL

Village Should Buy CVS,

Make It Downtown Hub

During New York History Day, a Rockland County family strolls past Cooperstown’s downtown CVS, once an anchor, but vacant since November 2017. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

Editor’s Note:  This is reprinted from this week’s Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta editorial pages. Click here for related editorial.  What do you think? Letters to the Editor welcome at info@allotsego.com

In a couple of weeks, we won’t remember that Cooperstown’s Main Street is a ghost town from Columbus Day to Memorial Day.  The 500,000 visitors will begin arriving in earnest with Dreams Parks’ June 1 opening.

By the time we again become Coopers(ghost)town, the opportunity will have been lost.

The opportunity, of course, is 100 Main St., a gap in the village’s set of most perfect teeth since CVS moved to the southern edge of the village in November 2017 –yes, it’s almost been two years.

The story is it’s been vacant this long because the owner, Constance Gilson of Belmont, Mass., had a lease with CVS for $14,000 a month rent through April, then through August; now, the word is the lease will expire in September.

Since CVS and the Cooperstown General Store closed within weeks of each other, downtown Cooperstown is no longer a destination for year-’round residents.

(That doesn’t mean there aren’t big, although focused, successes: Fred Lemister and Andrew Oberitter’s wine and liquor stores, the Grady boys’ astonishing Stagecoach Coffee, but – regrettably – they are the exception.  More than ever, baseball shops are shutting for the winter.  Notable exception:  Mickey’s Place – thanks, Vinnie Russo.)

If the CVS, an anchor property, becomes just another baseball store – even worse, a mega-one – it’ll be a lot harder for downtown to struggle back to a multi-purpose community center.  Plus, it will jeopardize the smaller, Cooperstown-committed shop owners, including this beam of hope, the four women’s dress shops – LJ’s Sassy Boutique, Kate’s Upstate, Ellsworth & Sill, and May’s All About The Girls.

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and Trustees Dean, Dewey, Falk, Sternberg, and newcomers Benton Maguire and Joe Membrino:  BUY IT!!

For the past five years, the village has been garnering $400,000+ in new revenues from paid parking.  The streets are largely repaired.  Issue a bond, buy 100 Main and redevelop it as a center of a reborn downtown.

We can’t, the mayor and some trustees will immediately tell you.  We’d have to issue an RFP (request for proposals) and give a contract to the highest bidder, who can then do whatever he/she likes.

There are two options.

One, the village would be able to structure the RFP in a way that bidders would be required to develop a multi-purpose retail property at affordable rates – that’s the problem now: only stores serving the tourists can afford to locate on Main Street.  This new enterprise would be a magnet for general purpose retail.

Two, the trustees could form a Local Development Corp. which would include a similar goal – a hub for general purpose retail – in its trustee-defined mission.   Sure, the Village Board would lose some control of the property’s development, but it would appoint the LDC’s board, and could appoint people sympathetic to the need for a general purpose downtown.

Hey, why not sit down with Perry Ferrara, who put together an investment group five years ago to build a hotel downtown, and come up with something that includes multi-purpose retail.  A year-‘round hotel right on Main Street would certainly help businesses thrive year-‘round.   Perhaps, under the right circumstances, he’d be interested in putting apartments above first-floor retail.

A hotel would bring some people downtown year-’round.  Apartments might be even better.  It’s generally understood if you get people living downtown, downtowns will revive – Oneonta is acting on that understanding.  Maybe market-rate apartments above mixed-retail on the first floor.

Yes, yes, yes – downtowns are challenged these days due to the dominance of Emperor Amazon.  Downtowns, and everything else.  But pick up a copy of Preservation, the National Trust’s magazine, and you see example after example of community after community rebuilding their centers by restoring and repurposing their historic buildings, enhanced by strong merchant groups, frequent promotions – remember the village’s lovely Christmas-time Victorian Stroll? – and off-season festivals.

Think Skaneateles, Cazenovia, Balston Spa, Saratoga, Lake Placid.  Plus, we have the Baseball Hall of Fame, the museums most of the year, and the year’-round aura of such summertime attractions to develop the missing piece: year-‘round livability.

The Village Board has been pouring millions of dollars into upgrading the infrastructure – new streets, sidewalks, lampposts (with LED bulbs), water pipes and sewerage, including a fancy redo of Pioneer Park.   That’s great, but if there’s no one to put trash in the multi-thousand-dollar computerized receptacles, what’s the point?

Not all, but most of the village trustees in recent years have, disastrously, been piously anti-business, routinely roughing up Matt Hazzard when he was Cooperstown Chamber executive, and steadfastly adhering to a church-state philosophy.

Merchants are just one of their many constituencies, some trustees will tell you, straight-faced. We don’t want to pick winners and losers, they’ll tell you.  So we all lose.

There’s rot at the core.

And that rot is 100 Main St.  Embrace it.  Buy it.  Develop it as a centerpiece of a future Cooperstown that all the trustees  should want.  Don’t say it can’t happen; get started.


5 thoughts on “Village Should Buy Former CVS, Make It Downtown Hub

  1. Susan and Frank Miosek

    Thank you for calling attention to one of the hottest topics in community discourse at this time . Your positive suggestions should be taken to heart by those in the position to affect the necessary steps to solving this dilemma.
    We sincerely hope your article sparks a flame in the minds of some young entrepreneurs who will rise up to the occasion.

  2. moppet

    “The streets are largely repaired?” Take a drive out of the village on Lake Street. Notice the horrible potholes and rough pavement extending along both sides of the road near the golf course practice putting green. Take a drive down Chestnut to Stewart’s or the new CVS. Notice how your shocks take unremitting punishment from the rough road. These are only two of multiple instances of unacceptable roads throughout Cooperstown. The $400,000 first needs to be used to put our local streets in better shape. What kind of message does the present condition of the roads send to those visiting our village?

  3. Chip Northrup

    The building is an eyesore from a strip shopping center, needs to come down and a mid rise mixed use building built there. Need an underground parking lot at Doubleday Field with parking for downtown residents.

  4. Darin Meehan

    This is not the role of government. The “government” doesn’t have money, the money belongs to the taxpayers. The government has no authority to be involved in commerce.

  5. May-Britt Joyce

    Are there not ways to encourage a viable business useful to residents and visitors who come to town? Visitors with immediate needs don’t want to give up their paid parking spot and drive out to CVS. They and we need a store with basic everyday products. By the way, CVS is not the only eyesore on Main Street. Some store fronts are scruffy, need paint, etc. Visitors and residents deserve to see better. Kudos, however, to Bat Company and Tins & Bins who look attractive , professional and inviting.

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