December 1, 2021

$1 million grants for city, Homer

Cortland Standard file photo

Projects in Cortland and Homer got $2 million of more than $8.5 million the state awarded Monday in Central New York.

Cortland will get $1 million to help renovate a mostly vacant Homer Avenue plaza for non-profits, including a YWCA child care center, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cortland County Historical Society and Seven Valleys Health Coalition, with plans for a year-round farmers market.

Homer got $1 million for two projects, the reconstruction and renovation of 23 S. Main St. into living units and commercial space, and the upper floors of 1-3 S. Main St. into six loft-style apartments.

“Downtown communities are vital to keeping our economies thriving and to attracting businesses and families to put down their roots in New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “The Restore New York Communities Initiative recognizes communities teeming with potential and invests in their transformation and their future, and turns them into neighborhoods New Yorkers are proud to call home.”

The $8.5 million comes in the fifth round of the Restore New York Communities Initiative to help municipal revitalization. Statewide, 71 communities got nearly $81 million.

“From the transformation of a vacant parking lot into a new building that will house retail and not-for-profits in the city of Cortland to the creation of much-needed housing in the city of Ithaca, this funding will bring major community benefits,” said Assembly Member Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca.)

“Restore New York partners with municipalities to back projects that can have a transformative impact on neighborhoods and downtowns throughout the state,” said Howard Zemsky, president and chief executive of Empire State Development.

The three projects:

Homer Avenue Plaza

The $5.5 million 172-174 Homer Ave. plaza project would house nonprofit agencies in nearly 65,000 square feet. David Yaman, who is donating his services to develop the site, said the plaza’s original use, as a neighborhood shopping center, has no practical application today and the only way to salvage the space is to repurpose it.

The Seven Valleys Health Coalition plans to open an indoor, year-round farmers market. The YWCA would consolidate its day-care program there and start a shelter for homeless and abused women. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County would move there, and the Cortland County Historical Society would have exhibits. The plaza’s only current tenant, a Dollar General store, would remain.

Yaman compared it to the redevelopment of Armory Square in Syracuse, a neighborhood once filled with factories and warehouses that all went into disrepair. The developers bought economically irrelevant buildings and made them useful. Armory Square now contains upscale apartments, restaurants and hotels.

21-23 S. Main St.

Jamie Yaman, principal broker for Yaman Real Estate, has said he and his father, David, plan to buy the property — where a man died in a fire caused by a meth lab explosion in 2016 — and develop it through another corporate entity.

The new $2 million building would also be three stories tall, with the first floor used for commercial purposes and the top two floors for residential space, Jamie Yaman said. The building will match the historic nature of the village.

The project has already received $240,000 from a state Empire State Development grant. — part of the $5.2 million state funding the county received.

1-3 S. Main St.

Renee Neiderman, owner of the Barber Block, where her business Bev & Co. operates, would get money to continue renvoations at the building, which received $493,000 in 2016.

Her plan was to refurbish the building’s upper floors, potentially to become apartments.

The building has three floors — the first two are occupied by retail stores, while the top floor, once an auditorium, is empty.

The block was built in 1813, burned in 1856 and was rebuilt by Jedediah Barber in 1863. It became the Keator Opera House in 1876, but there has not been a performance in the building since 1908 — the same year Homer’s Town Hall was built with an auditorium and stage to compensate for the closed opera house.

Neiderman bought the block in 2003 and did extensive renovations to turn the first and second floors into retail space.