January 26, 2022

Work begins

First downtown project opens doors, second coming

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Vine Health and Fitness Gym owner and physical therapist Janine Franco helps a first-time client Wednesday in downtown Cortland. Vine is the first business to open under the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which is expected to significantly change downtown Cortland.

Almost a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Cortland was receiving $10 million to reshape its downtown, a business owner and physical therapist has opened the first of the projects funded.

Janine Franco opened Vine Health and Fitness Gym earlier this month. On Wednesday, gym equipment filled a 7,000-square-foot portion of the building at Groton Avenue and Main Street and a couple of people were getting in an early afternoon workout.

Cuomo visited Cortland in October 2017 to announce the city would receive $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative money, after a competitive process.

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

The sum of the projects would create a downtown that includes entertainment, commercial, professional and residential facilities and the initiative was meant to spur further development in the city over the coming decades.

Renovations to make way for the gym began in June — several weeks ahead of the final list of projects. “We were going to do the project anyway,” Franco said.

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative will reimburse Franco more than $270,000 for the $800,000 project.

Franco’s center is partnering with Cortland Regional Medical Center and its outpatient physical therapy to continue patient treatment. A massage therapist will join the center in November.

Franco, who is from Cortland, said she takes pride in the community. “I think its really special we had the opportunity to be part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative,” she said.

While some of the projects are further off, others not so much.

Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency, said the next likely project to finish up is at 40 Main St., the Cortland Downtown Partnership’s building. “It’s been under construction for a bit,” VanGorder said.

Exercise physiologist and Vine personal trainer Yale Hughes receives a shipment of weights at Vine Health and Fitness Gym in downtown Cortland.

A total of $2 million has been put in to the building, including $484,000 from the Downtown Revitalization initiative.

After the reconstruction, VanGorder sees the building as a resource to increase retail along Main Street; bring in entrepreneurs; and create living space.

Adam Megivern, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, expects work on the building to be completed by the end of the year.

Most recently, an architectural detail on the building from the early 1920s was uncovered on the front of the facade. Megivern said a new plan for facade work has been approved by the state.

The second and third floors have been completed, including an apartment, commercial space, office suites and cubicles, Megivern said. The first floor, once complete, will offer space for retail businesses, office space and a public art gallery.

“This is the third phase of construction,” Megivern said.

The partnership bought the building in 2011. “We really want to see it be the hub for anyone looking to start a business in Cortland County,” Megivern said.

In July, Cuomo’s office released the final list of 13 projects that had been whittled down from a list of 26 proposals, totaling more than $12.7 million presented to the state in March.

Each project had been vetted by a local planning committee and the general public.
Many of the projects, if not most, are still in planning phases.

VanGorder said work with Mayor Brian Tobin has also begun to pull together an advisory committee for the redevelopment of Main Street. “It’s the centerpiece for the DRI,” he said.

Just because people aren’t seeing work being done doesn’t mean it’s not happening, VanGorder said. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, he added.

“This is a long process,” VanGorder said Wednesday.