October 23, 2021

DRI list down to 26 projects

City winnows projects vying for $10M

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

The building that once housed Mullen Office Outfitters on Main Street in Cortland would be refurbished to house a bowling alley, recording studio, rooftop garden and other entertainment in a $1.4 million project that seeks $975,000 in state funding from a Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

CORTLAND — A downtown movie theater, an entertainment venue in the former Mullen’s office supply store and a two-way Main Street are among 26 projects and $35.5 million in downtown investment seeking $10 million in state funds to get them started.

City leaders released their pared down list for a statefunded Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which the public will get to comment on next month.

The challenge: The initiative’s planning committee is asking for $12.7 million when only $10 million is available. Something will have to give.

The committee plans to submit the project list as is to state officials for approval in March. From there, the state will decide which projects are worth funding and cut the projects list down to $10 million.

Cortland was awarded $10 million from the state in October as the Central New York winner of the 2017 Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The projects are intended to spur additional private investment in downtown Cortland, with the proposed projects requiring $22.8 million from other sources to be completed.

The committee also put one project previously not being considered for funds, a SUNY Cortland drone technology program, on the projects list.

The program has the potential to spin-off to further drone developments and job creation, said Andrew Fish, the senior vice president of business development for Centerstate Corporation for Economic Opportunity.

Garry VanGorder, the committee’s co-chairman and the executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp., said the kind of projects the committee was looking for would transform downtown Cortland, were financially feasible and the state would be able to get a return on its investment.

One such project would be a $541,580 movie theater at 83-85 Main St. It would have two screens with 50 to 75 seats each, show second-run movies, art-house films and classic movies, and potentially have film festivals. The theater would allow people who live downtown to take in a dinner and a movie without having to drive.

“It was recommended because it has synergy with the 83 Main St. project,” VanGorder said, which would create nine apartments in the top three floors of that building. “It’s in a vacant building and can bring an arts presence back to Main Street.”

VanGorder compared it with the $1.4 million Orchard project, which would turn the building that formerly housed Mullen Office Outfitters into an entertainment facility with a bar, a rooftop park, a recording studio, a performance space and a bowling alley.

Sarah Oral, one of the consultants from Cameron Engineering, compared the idea to a chain business called Brooklyn Bowl.

Image provided by Downtown Revitalization Initiative committee

This drawing shows The Orchard, which is partly based on a similar business called Brooklyn Bowl.

The next steps

• The final public open house will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 1 at the Cortland Repertory Theatre Downtown, where people can speak about what projects they think should be on the final list.

• The final planning committee meeting will be 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Tompkins Cortland Community College extension center on south Main Street, where the committee intends to have a final list of projects to submit for state approval in March.

Mayor Brian Tobin, the other committee co-chair-man, said infrastructure projects — taking up $6.7 million of the $12.7 million in requests — would make downtown attractive to both business and living. They include Main Street streetscape improvements, downtown wi-fi and broadband access and Clinton Avenue improvements.

Main Street would have improved parking, two-way traffic and up-to-date infrastructure running underneath while Clinton Avenue would have improved bike and pedestrian safety measures and structures intended to welcome people to Cortland.

“After Main Street, Clinton Avenue is the next big thing,” Tobin said.

Nineteen projects were rejected, including a music museum, electric vehicle charging stations, a downtown hotel and a parking garage. Some didn’t have a sponsor, others too few details and still others too little private investment. VanGorder said that just because a project was denied funding does not mean it is dead. He wants to continue to talk to state agencies about how to fund them through other means.