October 22, 2021

Homer sketches plan for $10M DRI grant

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Traffic is shown on Main Street in downtown Homer in this 2019 Cortland Standard file photo.

Homer village board member Ed Finkbeiner looks at a block of century-old buildings along the east side of Main Street and sees not only the village’s past, but its future.

Two years after the village lost its bid to receive a $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, similar to one the city of Cortland won the previous year, the village is preparing to apply again. But this time, it has a far more grandiose vision.

After failing to receive the grant last time, village representatives met with state officials to discuss why their proposal had failed, when Fulton was awarded the funding.

“They said we weren’t transformational enough,” Finkbeiner said at a village board meeting Wednesday.

The same won’t be said again.

“It will be like downtown Austin (Texas),” Finkbeiner said. “It helps Cortland and this whole area.”

The plan is still being drafted and will be subject to public information sessions at some point.

The idea is to redevelop primarily the block between Wall and Pine streets, a block that now has Bev & Co., Homer Men and Boys, an IGA Foodliner and Sinfully Sweet Cafe.

The village would work with private investors to bring in housing, restaurants and other businesses. The project would expand to the West Branch of the Tioughnioga River and include parking, a planned riverfront trail and on the opposite side of the river a large new music venue.

Finkbeiner said a private developer, who he declined to identify, has verbally agreed to participate in the project.

This year’s state budget includes $100 million to fund $10 million grants to each of 10 regions of the state, although a timetable for applications has not yet been announced, said Mayor Hal McCabe.

If the plan being developed is unsuccessful again, McCabe said the village will continue improving it for future rounds.

The revitalization plan will increase sales tax revenue, add to the taxable value of the village and create jobs, Finkbeiner said.

“We have some great ideas,” Finkbeiner said. “It will have a big impact.”