January 21, 2022

Hochul reviews downtown revitalization progress

Getting an update

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul tours downtown Cortland on Wednesday with Mayor Brian Tobin to see what progress has been made on projects funded by a $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative announced in 2017. Tobin told her that stakeholder meetings will begin in a couple of months on converting Main Street to two-way traffic.

Lt Gov. Kathy Hochul strolled Wednesday down Main Street in Cortland as Mayor Brian Tobin updated her on a $10 million state investment in the urban core.

Expect stakeholder meetings to begin within a couple months on converting Main Street to two-way traffic — and the water, sewer and telecommunications lines beneath the street — he told her, but the city is “being more fluid” in its approach to downtown parking problems.

Hochul stopped in Cortland following an earlier announcement in Vestal about the winners of a $2.5 million green energy competition for an update on how Cortland is progressing following the 2017 award of a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

“You’re on the cusp of really transforming downtown,” Hochul said as she walked.

Cortland’s $10 million award was announced in 2017 in the second round of funding, joining Oswego in the Central New York award region. Auburn and Fulton have since also been selected.

The program gives $10 million in 10 communities each year to be divided among a number of projects, many of which require a private or local investment.

The idea is to sink money into a small urban core to encourage business development, as well as downtown revitalization through housing, economic development, transportation or other community projects to attract residents, businesses, jobs and visitors.

In Cortland, the largest block of funding, $5.09 million, will go to a project that will convert Main Street to two-way traffic, and in the meantime, update all the infrastructure beneath it, including century-old water and sewer mains, new lighting and sidewalks.

Todd R. McAdam/Managing Editor

Kevin McNeil of McNeil Development shows Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul interior space Wednesday at 73 Main St., being renovated with money from a $10 mil- lion Downtown Revitalization Initiative announced in 2017.

Hochul stepped inside 73 Main St., where Kevin McNeil of McNeil Development showed her what $220,000 in state money bought. The first floor has been roughed out, but offices now fill the second. The third floor will become apartment space.

Improvements on the way

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects:

  • Rebuilding Main Street for two-way traffic and new water, sewer and telecommunications lines: $5.09 million.
  • Renovating four properties — 13-15 Central Ave., 73 Main St., 83-85 Main St. and 37-39 Port Watson St. — for mixed commercial and residential use: $1.35 million.
  • The Orchard, 28 Main St. entertainment venue: $975,000.
  • Building owner/Business Startup loan and grant fund: $600,000.
  • Cortland Business Innovation Center at 40 Main St.: $484,000.
  • Downtown fiber optic and high-speed broadband: $386,000.
  • Vine Health and Fitness Gym at 20 N. Main St.: $270,000.
  • Pocket park between 10 and 16 Main St.: $250,000.
  • Crown City Artworks Project, featuring sculpture, murals or exhibitions: $200,000.
  • SUNY Cortland Institute of Applied Geospatial and Drone Technology: $100,000.

A couple of doors down, Hochul chatted with develop Jamie Yaman about his plans for 83-85 Main St. Expect facade improvements with the state’s $500,000 contribution, he said, with commercial space on the first floor and market-rate housing on the upper floors.

An upper-story theater will have to be sacrificed, Yaman said. “We’re going to keep a lot of the historic elements,” he said. “Some things will be lost and the theater will be one of them.”

Interior demolition will begin next year, he said, but he does not yet have a commercial tenant lined up, and said that space may be vacant for a while.

Improvement is not immediate, Hochul said. Cortland was awarded in the second round; even the first-round cities are still bringing projects online.

“They’re not done yet. They’re not just changing the physical, they’re changing the psychology,” she said. The idea is that the state’s investment is seed money, encouraging other investments, such as work to 77 Main St., next door to a DRI-funded project.

“In five years, this area will be unrecognizable,” Hochul said.