October 19, 2021

13 projects in downtown Cortland to share $10M in state funding

Final DRI list unveiled

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Pedestrians walk past the site of the future "pocket park" sponsored by the Downtown Revitalization Project award money.

An entertainment hub, renovations of four downtown buildings, downtown Wi-Fi and a two-way Main Street — the largest single project — are on the list of final projects to get a share of $10 million as part of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office released Thursday afternoon a final list of 13 projects that had been whittled down from a list of 26 proposals presented to the state in March.

“There’s a great mix of projects here,” Mayor Brian Tobin said. “There’s a mix of public and private.”

The final list includes a downtown pocket park, new gym, establishing the SUNY Cortland Institute of Applied Geospatial and Drone Technology and the completion of the Cortland Business Innovation Center.

However, don’t expect construction to begin immediately. Typically, the preliminary phases of the projects can take a year. The return on investment may take much longer. The goal of the initiative is to revive the state’s small cities with improvements that pay off over decades.

“As a gateway to the heart of the state, Cortland is strategically located to benefit from a talented work force driven by the nearby hub of higher
education institutions,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release. “These targeted investments will help to make downtown Cortland a soughtafter destination for young talent seeking a community where they can work, enjoy the arts and gather with family and friends all in one neighborhood.”

In fact, the sum of the projects would create a downtown that includes entertainment, commercial, professional and residential facilities.

It’s the kind of downtown that hasn’t been seen since before World War II.

After the war, people fled to the suburbs, leaving downtowns across America for retail — which eventually also moved out of downtowns — and later professional spaces.

Approved projects

• Create the Crown City Artworks Project — $200,000.
• Create a downtown pocket park on Main Street — $250,000.
• Develop a new multi-use entertainment facility at what used to be Mullen Office Outfitters — $975,000.
• Establish Vine Health and Fitness Gym — $270,752.
• Create a building owner and business startup loan and grant fund — $600,000.
• Establish the SUNY Cortland Institute of Applied Geospatial and Drone Technology — $100,000
• Renovate four downtown buildings for a vibrant mix of new commercial and residential uses — $1.35 million total.
• Complete the Cortland Business Innovation Center — $484,000.
• Reimagine Main Street infrastructure and streetscape, converting Main Street to two-way traffic — $5.1 million.
• Provide downtown WiFi and improve connectivity — $386,000.

Rejected projects

• Courthouse Park mobile stage and fountain — $443,750.
• Crown movie theater — $455,000.
• 1 N. Main St. streetscape and pocket park — $71,750.
• Bikeshare — $35,402.
• SUNY Cortland Alumni House — $100,000.
• BRIX facade improvements — $50,000.
• Keator Block — $416,300.
• 29 Central Ave., office, retail and apartment — $85,000.
• Fiorentini Block — $80,000.
• Vermicomposting marketing — $8,400.
• Improve trash and recycling collection — $50,000.
• Alternative energy grant fund — $150,000.
• Clinton Avenue gateway — $1 million.

Residential space would come in renovations to create lowerlevel commercial space and upper-story residential space at 83-85 Main St., 37-39 Port Watson St., 73 Main St. and 13-15 Central Ave.

In October, Cuomo visited Cortland to announce the city would receive $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative money. In March, a proposed list of projects was sent to the state totaling more than $12.7 million. Each project had been vetted by a local planning committee and the general public.

With $300,000 taken off the top of the $10 million for a stateselected consultant, Cameron and Associates, $9.7 million was left. It was up to the state to choose the final projects.

“It’s good that this phase of the bureaucratic phase is over,” said Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency.

Most of the money, $5.1 million, will go to convert the oneway portion of Main Street to two-way traffic, including water and sewer modernizations, efforts to improve walkability and other accessibility features. That leaves $4.6 million for the other projects.

However, those projects create another $5.1 million in investment from other sources, bringing the total value of the list to $14.8 million.

Both Tobin and VanGorder said the project that aims at restructuring Main Street, mainly from a one-way to a two-way, will help drive the other projects. “It’s more than just turning Main Street to two way,” Tobin said. The project will also redevelop the streetscape and upgrade it.

However, not everybody could win. Robby Petrella, owner and operator of Brix Pubaria at 60 Main St., is one of the sponsors whose project was struck from the final list.

His project would have brought facade improvements to the Brix building.

Petrella said Thursday that the project was put forth with the idea of making the corner of West Court Street and Main Street a restaurant hub. After seeing the energy coming from across the street at Bru 64, Petrella wanted to continue that. “Unfortunately we didn’t get picked,” he said.

Petrella said not getting picked is bittersweet. Bitter because his project wasn’t picked, but sweet because he knows the other projects will contribute to the growth of his business.

Now it’s on to the next step which includes the city and project leaders working with the state to administer the funds, VanGorder said.

Each project could have a different state agency for the process, VanGorder had said. Depending on the type of project, one could work with the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal and another with Empire State Development.

Within the year construction on some of the projects could begin, he had said.

“There is a lot of work to be done still,” VanGorder said.