Oneonta Residents Push Back On $10M Downtown Plan

Feb 21, 2017

At a public meeting on Dec. 13, residents from the Oneonta area gathered around tables in groups of six or so to look at a map of their city. They used different colored stickers to mark their favorite places to go, spots that should be green spaces and what should change.
Credit Monica Sandreczki / WSKG News

Some Oneonta residents are worried about using state economic development money to construct new buildings instead of renovating existing ones.

Last summer, New York State awarded ten cities - including Oneonta and Elmira - $10 million each to revitalize their downtown.

At the time, Governor Cuomo said Oneonta had the potential to be an economic hub in the Mohawk Valley.

Since then, members of the Oneonta Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) steering committee have met with a consultant chosen by the state and held several public meetings.

One project that city leaders are considering is to build a mixed-use building with commercial space and room for a few dozen apartments. Another possible project is to build a food and beverage center.

Some residents, including Seth Clark, don't like those ideas. Clark owns a few rental properties in town.

"We've got so many building that are vacant, we don't think that building new buildings on sites that are, say, parking lots right now makes a heck of a lot of sense," said Clark.

Clark hosted a community forum last week about the revitalization projects and described the DRI process as "contentious."

“Some people are saying they’ll see where it goes and hope for the best. But I certainly haven’t gotten anybody in terms of the transformational aspect of this that’s going, ‘Yeah! Yeah! Rah! Rah! Rah! Transformation! This is going to be great,'” said Clark. "That is just not the word on the street in Oneonta right now.”

At the community forum, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said if the final proposal isn't considered "transformative," the city will not receive the money.

Besides his frustration with several of the projects, Clark supports the potential plan to renovate the upper floors of existing buildings on Main Street and turn those into apartments.

Herzig and other city leaders on the DRI steering committee must finalize and submit the project proposal by the end of the month.