ONEONTA ANTICIPATES RENEWAL
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – At New York Conference of Mayors’ Winter Legislative Meeting Feb. 7-9 in Albany, Mayor Gary Herzig heard one refrain from the mayors of successful cities.
“The biggest factor in downtown revitalization is creating new options for downtown living space,” he said. “It’s all about people. Stores open when there are enough customers to shop there.”
Back home on Wednesday, Feb. 19, Herzig announced that four Main Street building owners will receive $2.3 million to upgrade and create upper-floor housing.
In all, 32 new apartments would be created, and another eight upgraded with new fixtures and electric. The proposed Arts On Dietz lot will add 64 units, for a total of 96 new apartments.
“That’s at least 100 people added to our downtown,” said Herzig. “Just imagine the impact that will have.”
And the winners are:
- Springbrook, $600,000 for 22 apartments at 186-212 Main St., above Key Bank.
- Peter Clark, $275,000 for 10 apartments at 250 Main St., above the Shops at Ford & Main.
- Joseph Grigoli, $65,000 to upgrade four apartments at 285 Main St, above Sal’s Pizzeria.
- Russ Scimeca, $20,000 to upgrade four apartments at 177 Main St., above Roots Brewing Company.
“We had a girl who came to us, she was dying for an apartment on Main Street, and we just didn’t have anything for her,” said Lisbeth Rose, Clark’s general manager.
Though Clark is known for student rentals, Rose said that these apartments would be market rate. “We’re putting in higher-end finishes, on-site laundry and all utilities included,” she said. “We want to appeal to young professionals.”
She said they had worked with The Working Kitchen on previous projects, and may do so again with the new building.
They are also applying to put an elevator at the back of the building, making it more accessible, as well as updating electric and plumbing. “We’re hoping to get started this summer,” she said. “And hope to finish within a year – or maybe this year!”
In December, when this piece of the story broke, Springbrook’s COO Seth Haight said its goal is also to serve young professionals.
“People are coming to the area for a job, whether it’s at Springbrook or Fox or one of the colleges, and they can’t find housing,” he said. “It puts us at a disadvantage. No one wants to live in the middle of nowhere.”
In December, Springbrook was also awarded a $1 million CFA grant through the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council for the project.
Joe Grigoli, the retired owner of Sal’s Pizzeria (and brother of Sal Grigoli, who ran Sal’s in Cooperstown until his retirement last summer), said, “I had heard there was money from the city, so I filled out a lot of paperwork. I didn’t hear anything, so I started doing the work myself, and then two days later, I got the letter saying I’d received the award!”
One of his four two-bedroom apartments is currently vacant, and he is completely renovating it, including updated electrical and plumbing, and all-new appliances. “For years I had students, but now, I’m doing more year-‘round rentals,” he said.
The tenants will be allowed to stay in their apartments while the work is being finished. “It’s a nice thing the city is doing,” he said.
Similarly, Russ Scimeca, Roots Brewing owner, said, “The apartments are all in various conditions. Some need new flooring, others need new bathrooms. We’ve tried to do what we can, but repairs are expensive.”
He has one three-bedroom apartment and two three-bedroom apartments, and all are currently occupied. “These will be market-rate apartments, so no students,” he said. “They’re for young families.”
The Downtown Improvement Fund, part of the Downtown Revitalization Fund, designated $2.3 million in grants for downtown businesses. In March 2019, 50 awards were made to various businesses, including Roots and Sal’s Pizzeria, primarily for signage and facades, with several of the projects scheduled to begin this spring.
Leftover funds were returned to the Downtown Improvement Fund and designated for upper floor housing.
All Downtown Improvement Fund applications were reviewed by a Project Selection Committee chaired by
former mayor Kim Muller. Committee members also included Sandra Eighmey, Tom Wise, Joan Fox, Rachel Jessup and Alan Cleinman.
“These projects will both provide much needed new housing options and energize our downtown,” said Herzig.
“I’d love to see an extra 100 people downtown,” said Rose.