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$500,000 for downtown business site

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

The Business Innovation Center at 40-42 Main St. in Cortland is in line for a $500,000 state grant as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Restore New York Communities Initiative.

CORTLAND — The Cortland Downtown Partnership has cleared its final hurdle in securing funding Thursday for its Business Innovation Center at 40-42 Main St. with a $500,000 state grant, part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Restore New York Communities Initiative.

The money will be used to complete renovations inside the building and its facade, said Adam Megivern, executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership.

The plan for the innovation center is to house businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the three floors of the building. The first floor will be a space for retail stores. The second floor will have offices and workspace where entrepreneurs can grow their business and work with each other. And the third floor will be a high-end apartment, specifically for people who are coming to assist in mentoring the entrepreneurs, Megivern said.

The total estimated cost of the three-phase project is $1.6 million, according to Megivern. The first phase, costing $350,000, was for the acquisition of the building. The second phase was for the installation of a $650,000 elevator in the building. And the third phase is for the renovation of the three floors of the building and its facade, costing an estimated $662,900.

The recent $500,000 grant will help to cover the final phase, as the Downtown Partnership will cover the rest of the cost. The same happened for the other phases of the project as the Downtown Partnership received a $300,000 capital grant from Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) for the first phase and a $500,000 grant through the state’s regional economic council competition for the second.

The idea of having a local place where entrepreneurs could network and take their ideas to the next level was conceived in 2008 by the Downtown Partnership. Renovations on the building started in 2013, with the opportunity for business to start moving in.

The only business to do so was Sol-X space technology company, founded by Cortland resident Blaze Sanders in 2013. The company creates technology for space, such as commercially available microcomputer designed for space. However, the business has since moved to California.

Adam Megivern, executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, said in October that getting the business incubator off the ground has been a slow process.

“We have several people … who are either interested in opening up a business offsite or space in the incubator,” he said at the time.

The Downtown Partnership is still open for new tenants.

“This is a great opportunity for folks,” Megivern said Thursday. “I really encourage folks to contact us to get involved in entrepreneurial activities.”

One of the goals of the center is to work with SUNY Cortland to find business-minded students close to finishing a business plan.

Fred Pierce, communications director at SUNY Cortland, said in October while the college has no responsibility to develop the physical space, it still plans to send its young entrepreneurs to the incubator once they are ready.

The project design work on the building is done. Although the $500,000 will help fund the rest of the project, Megivern said nothing can happen until there is a contractual agreement with the state for the construction of the building. He expects the bidding process and construction can start this year, with completion in 2018.