October 21, 2021

Homer applies for $10 million

Village seeks money from state Downtown Revitalization Initiative

Shenandoah Briere/contributing photographer

A man works on a the facade of a three-story commercial and residential property owned by David and Jamie Yaman during a busy Monday afternoon on Main Street in the village of Homer. The village has applied for $10 million through the Downtown Revitilization Initiative grant funding process.

Homer village trustees hope to get $10 million to help build a sports complex, a parking facility and other improvements through the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative, just two years after the city of Cortland won the competitive award.

However, Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe said he doesn’t expect to get it this year.

“We didn’t put in the application with anticipation of winning,” McCabe said Monday.

Rather, he said the application is a placeholder and a way of calling attention to the village. McCabe said he was encouraged by the Regional Economic Development Council to apply.

“We were told to get on the radar,” McCabe said.

The village is looking to use the money to:
• Build a parking garage to increase parking for Homer Elementary School, downtown businesses and the Center For the Arts.
• Build a sports complex to increase tourism and add jobs.
• Put in elevators so upper floors in buildings can be developed.
• Improve the facade to Sinfully Sweet Café and Bonnie’s Hair Dressers.
• Improve signage by adding kiosks for visitors and store signs.
• Improvements to the Center for the Arts to continue entertainment tourism.

Village Treasurer Tanya Digennaro turned in the village’s presentation Monday, a day before it was due.

Trustee Ed Finkbeiner said the original proposal was turned in May 31 and the village got feedback. He also said the village was one of seven communities to apply in Central New York.

“I’m going to predict Cazenovia is going to win this year,” he said.

After that, he said, he thinks a community in Onondaga County would get the funding. He said Homer has a good chance of getting the funding in 2021.

Finkbeiner expects to give a 10-minute presentation Thursday, with five minutes of questions, to a scoring committee in Syracuse — a subcommittee of the Regional Economic Development Council which oversees the process.

The committee will then “talk about how each community did with respect to the guidelines,” said Garry VanGorder, the executive director of the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency and Business Development Corp. He also sits on the development council and is on the scoring committee.

VanGorder said he couldn’t comment on Homer or any other municipality’s application until further in the process.

“The competition is pretty stiff, but I’m confident Homer did a good job so we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I can’t really comment beyond that.”

But previous awards — to Oswego, Cortland and Auburn — have given money to projects both public and private that revolved around specific visions for their downtowns. Homer hopes to create a similar plan.

“We’re sort of trying to position the village as a regional leader in sports and entertainment,” McCabe said.

McCabe said there the village has several industrial locations private investors could be attracted to develop, including the James Street Business Incubator, SSoy Plant Housing Development and North Main Street Senior Housing, according to the presentation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Cortland in October 2017 to announce the city would receive $10 million in DRI money, after a competitive process.

In November 2017, 23 projects were brought forward for public input. A total of 19 projects were turned down by January 2018. Another 26 were passed along with the initiative’s committee asking for $12.7 million. Then in March 2018 another 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 state-selected consultant, Cameron and Associates, $9.7 million was left. The state further winnowed the list to 13 projects.

That list 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.

Main Street would also be turned into a two-way street and its infrastructure would be improved.

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.

McCabe said he doesn’t believe Cortland already having received funding will affect the village application.

Community comment will be sought as the village continues in the process McCabe said. He has already reached out to the village’s Economic Development Council, which is made up of business leaders, residents, a representative from the Chamber of Commerce and the Homer Business Association.