Please let us know your thoughts.  For example, what do you think about the current plan?  How do you think Oneonta should spend the $10 million in DRI funds?

When commenting please keep in mind the DRI funds can only be used within the outlined area (see map below).

Effective February 7th anonymous comments are no longer allowed.  A valid email address and name is required

Comments after February can be found at our new site:

56 Replies to “Comments”

  1. As explained in the ‘About’ section I created this web site which I hope will help us make well-informed DRI decisions that reflect the interest of the Oneonta public. Here are some thoughts of mine…
    I do not support using DRI funds to build new structures that contain apartments and retail space for numerous reasons which I will outline. There are so many better uses for these funds. As one alternate, we should use these funds to address problems with downtown’s existing stock of buildings. Many downtown (or Main Street) properties need to be rehabilitated for reasons that include aesthetics, historical value, environmental concerns, and economics. Revitalizing existing structures will attract more visitors to downtown who will shop and eat at the restaurants. Oneonta’s winning application that secured the DRI funds included important statements about downtown Oneonta such as this statement: “The vacancy rates on upper floors are far higher than first floor commercial spaces, and oftentimes these spaces have been vacant and unused for many years. A downtown building cannot be economically viable if only generating income on half or a third of its square footage. It is imperative that, for both the building and the downtown, these structures are fully occupied. There is an estimated 65,000 sq ft of unoccupied vacant space in at least eight buildings”. Unfortunately, Stantec’s action plan clearly communicates that the rehabilitation of existing Main Street properties is not a priority since only a small amount of funding is currently allocated to that purpose.
    As we all know, the population in this area is declining. This was detailed recently in The Daily Star in a March 2016 article titled “Census shows local counties are dwindling”. In order to support the proposed new structures we need more people living here. Unlike Stantec, I am not optimistic about the idea that people will want to relocate to Oneonta.
    Stantec’s objective is to fill these new downtown apartments with non-student renters. It is unclear who these non-student renters are that will want to live in these proposed locations. Most of the proposed new structures would be built in student dominated locations. These locations are not desirable living locations for non-students because of the noise and activity on the streets late at night. Water Street, for example, is the epicenter of student night life. The proposed plan seeks to attract professionals and families; however, they will not want to live in the student bar neighborhood. So in contradiction to Stantec’s objective, the developer will likely have to rent to students anyway.
    As far as building more retail space this is definitely not a good idea. Building another restaurant and adding more retail space will hurt our existing downtown retailers. There is already way too much retail vacancy. We don’t need more.
    In addition to rehabilitating downtown buildings, there are many other very worthwhile projects on the list. Many of these projects need to be re-evaluated. Also, we don’t want to forget many of the comments made in public DRI meetings that deserve to be heard again.

  2. I think that whatever decisions are made need to be defined long term in how they will increase population and employment. Otsego County like most of upstate NY is losing population. How will the projects being discussed change that? There is already a large housing project going on in town. When you add those units to the proposed units, where will the people come from to fill these units? I do not believe they will come but we will move people from one place and have empties in another place. This will create more neglected empty housing. If you build it they will come is not a plan. We need jobs in the area that will bring new people. I find it sad that we have two colleges yet practically no one stays after graduation. Grant money is wonderful and it is great that our community received it but it needs to actually stimulate more than putting up buildings. I do not see the great success that has come from prior large grant funded programs and would love for this opportunity to be a real game changer in our community.

  3. While I am hesitant to offend any of the people who participated in the development of the current plan, I feel compelled to comment, albeit anonymously. According to Stantec’s most recent action plan, the top two priorities for the DRI as determined by the public are “connectivity, improve pedestrian access” and “renovate upper stories”. Clearly, the public understands that the historic buildings on Main Street create a unique, quaint atmosphere downtown that has intrinsic value and cannot be replicated. It seems unlikely that the roughly $750K – $1.5M currently allocated to renovation of these structures is going to be enough to convert all the existing vacant square footage into finished residential, retail, and/or office space. It doesn’t make sense to build new structures while leaving the historic buildings that currently line Main Street empty. In addition, I do not see how this plan leverages the student population in Oneonta, who are integral to the vitality of the downtown area. Students bring a youthful energy to downtown and spend money supporting our restaurants and other retailers. I think the current plan does not do enough to leverage Oneonta’s strengths, which include our two colleges and historic architecture.

  4. I have read the housing report provided to the City of Oneonta by Stantec during the DRI process. This is the report on which individuals who are in favor of building new residential/commercial space in downtown Oneonta seem to be basing their conclusions. The report calls for up to 130 new housing units to be built in Oneonta. (The report, which is very long, calls for different numbers at times, but 130 seems to be the most consistent.) By it’s own admission, the report does not use a “Supply and demand” model for arriving at this conclusion. Rather, the methodology used is a combining of various sources of “big data,” in this case numbers from the Nielson Ratings Corporation in combination with US census statisitics. Unfortunately, the current nationwide fetish for Big Data seems to be leading us down the wrong road in this case. In other words, the report assumes a demand for new housing which is never addressed or examined in detail.
    I believe that we do not have ANY substantial demand for new housing at this point. The only thing that will create such a demand is a substantial increase in job opportunities citywide. To build housing at this point is just putting the cart before the horse. It has been fashionable for years for local politicians to call for new housing. I believe this follows for two reasons: for one, local people love to tell anecdotes about how they cannot find suitable or affordable housing. But when taken apart many of these anecdotes reveal that housing availability is not really the central issue. Often I find that the person telling the story doesn’t have consistent employment, for instance.
    As a manager of a local housing company, I have my own anecdote. Over the past twenty-odd years of working with as many as 65 residential tenants a year, I have never once been contacted by a non-student who sought housing in the downtown area. I have seen no demand whatsoever for non-students to live in the Downtown Target Area. Zero is a powerful statistic.
    Secondly, for the past several years local politicians have been under pressure from Non-local developers to build large housing complexes. This pressure has too many times yielded results, with disastrous consequences for the local economy. The Hillside Commons student complex and the Silver Creek low income complex now being built have created few if any local permanent jobs. Moreover, these projects have simply de-capitalized the local economy by taking money which should be circulating locally and sent those funds off to enrich out-of-town developers and their share-holders.
    Hillside Commons was initially very popular the first year it opened, but now my understanding is that the complex struggles to get tenants. I believe it’s an over-priced experiment that is eventually doomed to failure. But while this complex struggles, its existence has completely de-stabilized the large part of the local economy that is based on off-campus student housing. This includes not just collapsing the local housing market, which now contains over sixty vacant houses; but also has had negative effects for any local businesses, such as restaurants, clothing boutiques, grocery stores, that depend on the money college students pour into the local economy to survive. Because Hillside Commons is primarily configured as three bedroom units, this complex has devastated the three bedroom house market in Oneonta. Now, three bedroom houses that might have been sold as student rentals are lying vacant in large numbers, to the point where it seems to me that there is a foreclosure on almost every block in the center city area. It is widely believed that for every vacant house on a city block, the other houses on that block are de-valued fifteen to twenty-five percent. No Oneonta homeowner has been compensated for the de-valuation of their property resulting from this new construction. It’s time for local homeowners to realize how this type of new housing construction negatively effects large numbers of Oneonta property owners.
    The negative consequences of building new housing when there was no demand were widely predicted by local housing professionals such as myself, before construction was undertaken. I think it’s time for those of us who predicted these very tangible negative consequences to stand up and point out that we were right. As we listen to those who advocate a second round of building, I think we need to be very vocal about the potential for unintended consequences that could devastate the local economy even more than it is already devastated.
    As far as the idea of building new commercial space downtown goes, don’t even get me started.

  5. I’ve noticed in the history of Oneonta….new buildings have always taken precedence over existing and quite beautifully done historic structures. Its a crying shame in my book. Refurbish these old existing structures. Don’t even get me started on the demolition years ago of the Roundhouse!!
    And secondly…we need more places to eat like a hole in the head! We are so diverse in how we can dine out now.
    Our sidewalks are a wreck. Our streets are a mess…We have a serious drinking and drugging issue in our community…To Truly revitalize our town, we need to heal our community! Just sayin

  6. I would like to see some of those funds allocated for maintaining the current Buildings downtown like those that have exterior brick veneers by pointing the gaps between bricks and / or also replacing any deteriorating bricks. Also, maybe some light pressure washing of the buildings that have stucco exterior walls. What I am basically asking, is just routine maintenance of the existing appearance of the Buildings in the downtown area that are there for business and also residency purposes. I think that it is only reasonable to require that this work be performed by a resident contractor that may be in a need of an opportunity to get some good work performance exposure, to help ensure that the allocation of these monies are truly to the advantage of the economy; that they are being designated to have a positive impact on. Oftentimes when a municipal contract is awarded and open bids are accepted for these type of projects, the work seems to get awarded to a contracting business from outside the area. The residents that do need employment and opportunity desperately get over looked when they ask these outside contractors for a job simply because they don’t reside in the area in which the main offices are located by such contractors and the local economy doesn’t really see the impact as much as it should. I do recall a time when the city I am proud to have come from, had the capability to repair and also maintain it’s own infrastructure through it’s DPW(Department Of Public Works). As far as other things I have reviewed proposed to use the funds for, I have no objection. Thanks for the opportunity to have an opinion heard.

  7. The Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center is one of the most promising yet underappreciated venues in the city.
    It needs significant remodeling but it is not included in DRI scenarios because it is already built and Stantec’s sole focus is promoting new construction.
    FPAC is under-performing because it lacks essential requirments of 1) a theater and 2) an orchestra performance space. Why can’t DRI funds be provided to add these necessary features to FPAC? And what about administrative and marketing assistance?

    The other area ignored by Stantec and the mayors office is the Mansion Square Art District. This area includes Wilber Mansion, home of the Community Art Network of Oneonta and its community art school, Carriage House Art Studio.
    It is the perfect time to build a two-story addition onto the Carriage House for handicapped accessible galleries, classrooms and studios.

  8. As a young adult local in this town I’ve already lived on Main Street and absolutely hated how loud it always was. I wouldn’t ever be interested in living in an apartment complex right in the middle of downtown again. I genuinely think this grant money should go towards bettering the local businesses and shaping up the vacant spaces on Main Street. If we don’t support our locals how do we expect them to want to stay in town?

  9. There is no reason to spend this money on building apartments, we have historical buildings that can be converted into apartments. We r wasting money that should be put into preserving the past. And besides, parking is needed so why r we going to remove it and put up a building?

  10. I attended the first public meeting that was held at the Foothills performing Arts Center I left the meeting feeling very positive about the project and looked forward to the next meeting . I have to say that I was very disappointed that the meeting that followed were all in the middle of the day when I and most of the community were working and could not attend . I also do not recall any of us talking about all these new apartments being built which I believe is over kill. We have so many beautiful old buildings down town that are in desperate need of repair and that are vacate . Oneonta also has a growing drug problem that affects our downtown area which needs to be addressed before you even think about building apartments there. As it is now businesses and professionals will not be attracted to the downtown area with this on going problem. At the first meeting , which was well attended by the community several different ideas were discussed that I do not even see mentioned here . Sports complex in Neahwa , more walkways from parking lots to main , grocery store and more retailers . Part of the money should be devoted to helping local business on main street who’s buildings are in desperate need of repair with apartments and business space’s in them that are empty . We need to attract more businesses to the Oneonta area before we build more apartments that will also sit empty like all the others. How about we fix what’s broken first before we build all new . Thank you
    Suzanne Fisher
    Oneonta Business owner

  11. On the Oneonta city webpage, there are copies of proposals that the city of Oneonta had to have written up showing where the 10 million was going to be used. Take a minute and read it. In it, it mentions specific projects that they told NYS they would use the money for. I see only one of those projects mentioned now. Doesn’t the city need to adhere to its proposal that got them the money in the first place? And how much was spent on this proposal? While we need housing, we also need to revitalize existing business owners to keep them here. If you only support new businesses and don’t assist your longstanding business owners, you will be in a downward spiral of always having businesses turn over and more empty storefronts.

  12. The prior replies here, those that choose to not be anonymous, are written by active participants in the downtown rental marketplace. They observe an existing downtown housing infrastructure with an undeveloped vacant stock of units. A walk do Main Street reveals this. Think of the floors over the Java Island double storefronts. The caption photo for this web page is of two stories of undeveloped space above Key Bank. These are existing resources that should be given first development consideration. Until these empty spaces are utilized, there is no reason to build up more capacity. My second observation is that there is now a perception for a need to link Market and Main Streets in a walking neighborhood. My understanding is that there once was an historic corridor from the depot (Stella Luna) to Main Street: Broad Street. This was eliminated in favor of vehicle traffic and urban renewal decades ago.

  13. It has recently come to my attention that the parcel at the corner of Market and Main St. has been listed in the paper for eminent domain on January 26 at 11:00AM. I am unsure as to who or why someone in our City feels that they can go out and force the sale of a property. The current owner has signs on the building claiming that it is for sale. What is the rationale for this? I feel there should be significant disclosure and agreement from the community that this is what we want to do if they plan to use community resources to redevelop this property.

    As a center city landlord (Spaulding Apartments) and resident I feel like I have a lot of exposure to the discussion going on here. With partners, I own and operate a couple properties in this downtown improvement zone and my personal residence is at the border of the zone. One of our properties is a 25 unit of mostly smaller residential units on Market St, fairly similar to the project being proposed (except we have our own parking). We rent to mostly students, but also some professionals.

    I fully agree that the property at the corner of Market and lower Chestnut needs to be redeveloped and I have seen no progress from the current owner in making something happen. I am not against eminent domain if the current owner is not-willing to sell for a reasonable Market rate price but has this process been disclosed and approved by the community? Eminent domain should be a last ditch effort from an obstructive landlord only.

    Though the Ford Motor building does not look good at the moment it should be seriously considered as to weather it should be Razed. Loft spaces in old warehouses are a considerable movement and preserving any of the old brick architecture should be considered priority number one based on our lessons learned with Oneonta’s previous poor execution of urban renewal. The new buildings created at Clinton Plaza, the parking garage and medical offices at the corner of Main and Chestnut have been functional and occupied. We lost an entire block of our downtown when Broad St was razed and now have disconnected parts of our downtown that were tightly knit before. Let’s not make those mistakes again. There are empty and under utilized parcels in downtown ( adjacent to FPAC, adjacent to Ruffinos, Stevens Hardware, In front of the parking garage, Across from the vacant SEARS building, the Vacant SEARS building… etc).

    As far as redeveloping Main St building upper level spaces go: It is my opinion that it would take very little money to accomplish this. The bigger problem is interested landlords. I have personally reached out to the owners of the property pictured above in efforts to locate a climbing gym or apartments in the upper levels with no response. I know other commercial realtors with clients that have tried the same with no luck. The owners are out of town landlords and seem to be happy with keeping the first two floors occupied but don’t want to deal with the hassle of redeveloping their upper floors. From what I can tell any local landlord that wants to fully occupy their building has been able to do so RE: Peter Clark, Ruffinos, etc. Many new apartments have been added to upper floor buildings in downtown with no public money necessary.

    My pitch would be to create true Live-work loft space as was originally pitched to the state. We need to create spaces downtown for young professional creative types to come in start their businesses and live nearby. This model has worked around the country very well in refurbishing old warehouse style buildings not dissimilar to the FORD building. The key is having a creative developer and some cash to seed new business ventures. We all talk about bringing jobs to town, lets do it. Provide the space, seed the ventures and lets roll forward. There are young and growing technology companies around town that would be a great fit for a new technology based downtown commercial space. many students I talk with LOVE Oneonta and want to stay. If they find good paying jobs read for them they will. Also, some students do stay local, though I do not know the percentage. Does anyone have data on that? If we provide interesting places to live and work, we will attract interesting businesses and tenants for our properties. Places I know of and have visited often: think Asheville, NC, or Chattanooga TN, Blacksburg VA, Ithaca NY, Boulder CO.

    Oneonta’s architecture in Center City and downtown is unrivaled and sought after in most of the country. If we take care of it and cultivate it we will come out of this way ahead.

    About students and professionals living downtown: Spaulding Apartments own a property up the street from the FORD property and one other house in the zone on the map for the grant and I can personally attest that there IS demand for non-student housing at both of my properties. Not only that but we have had positive results with professionals and students living in the same property. Many will tell you this cannot be done, but that is simply not true. There is a lot of demand for 1BR and studio units in the city of Oneonta right now. As long as the new units are built with few bedrooms then the developer will attract good tenants whether student or professional. If they build 3BR units then expect student parties or housing assistance programs.

    The last point I would like to make is that Students should not control this conversation. It is not a students right to be loud all night long or tear up the town. There are many ways for a college kid to party, bar hop and have fun and still respect the community they live in. It is our responsibility as community members to make sure they are held accountable and not given free reign. Based on many discussions with my neighbors in center city, noise has been slowly tapering over the years as the quality of student at SUNY improves and I hope we can continue on this path.

  14. I’ll echo the comments of others: Renovate rather than build. If we build new, existing buildings will further decay and blight the city.

    My guess is there are many more complications with granting funds to an existing owner to renovate his/her building. Perhaps the owners of the Main Street buildings should be putting forth proposals on what kind of funding they would like and how it would be used.
    Funds could be provided as grants or provided as “matching” the owner’s investment.

    After all the hard work and money Peter Clark has sunk into Main Street, imagine the absentee landlord of the Key Bank building being simply given a million dollars. That would hardly be fair. Building new is not what any of the local businesses would like to see happen, but certainly seems the easier path.

    Another option would be for the city to make a purchase offer on each of the buildings on Main street with vacancy and sign on for the best price versus appraisal. The city could then put the renovations out to bid and then sell to the highest bidder upon completion.

    I know several people who have been seeking to purchase a condo or coop in Oneonta because they don’t want to keep throwing their money away on rent. I would prefer to see this over rentals.

    As a Main Street business owner with a tight budget, I know that a great use of funds would be facade and signage for our Main Street businesses. Consistency, security cameras tied into the police station, and tasteful decor would make Main Street a picture perfect attraction to visitors from all over.

    The food hub idea sounds great because it could be a boon for local agricultural producers. Larger cities and higher income earners love craft foods that are locally produced. It seems fitting to offer a location and staff to better promote local foods and act as a liaison between food buyers and local farmers.

    But, there already seem to be ample dining options in Oneonta. We need another restaurant like we need another tattoo parlor.

    I’ve heard that finishing the performing arts center would enable it to offer larger/better performances which will create more evenings of “dinner and theater”. Bringing the masses to downtown is what local businesses need. It seems to me that investing in the PAC is good for downtown.

    One simple fact that has been proven by Pete Clark is that large retail spaces are harder to rent than smaller spaces. I bet that the vacant spaces between Java Island and the Oneonta Hotel could be filled easier if they were split in half. Perhaps giving the back side of Main Street a face lift and adding a level of parking on the Community bank lot would be a great way to provide more convenient parking while also alleviating some traffic off of Main Street.

    Many sincere thanks to all those who make time to be a part of these discussions. Thank you for taking an active part to direct the evolution of our city.

  15. The plan for aparments for non students is very important. As a new landlord and previous renter it was impossible to find affordable apartments. I am doing my part by making mine, zero code violations affordable. Under 700 for a 2 bed room that is in great shape is unheard of in Oneonta, so if they make the apartments affordable that is great. The retail space could be nice but there are already many vacant store fronts that can’t make it, and what guarantees do we have these wont’ just be vacant spaces in 3 years? Personally I would love to see the “Splash park” that had been rumored for awhile to go on the old Neawha Park pool would be great for all the families and kids as something to do. The plan seems ok only with the reassurance that the businesses can hold their own. I would like to see something recreational done with it for the city as well as the city has cut the recreation department and options for residents in previous years to a sad and pathetic level.

  16. I just want to say thank you so much to everyone for joining the discussion. Lots of good ideas here. On a personal note, It does me a lot of good to see kind words about my family business. I always appreciate the folks who notice the work our business does for Oneonta.

  17. A city lucky enough to have any type of civic center/pac should focus on that as a center of their downtown revival. Look at what Albany just did with their new (on a much larger scale, of course) convention center. Now all the hotels are booked/being renovated and State St is seeing many of it’s second and third floors being renovated as housing units while the street level spaces are fast becoming new shops and eateries (all busy too). Everyone seems to be raving about the project. It is proven time and again that the arts and meeting/convention spaces will drive people to the downtown area. (Saratoga Springs is another good example).
    We seem to be overlooking what we already have as an asset. Why not focus on that?

  18. Thank you everyone for the well thought out comments. In the last 24 hours hundreds of people have visited this site, thanks to people sharing on facebook. Lots of people are reading the comments provided.

  19. January 20, 2017
    Just some thoughts and suggestions:

    If the sidewalks had a overhang to protect people while shopping from store to store, this would make a tremendous difference.

    A drawback is the stretch between Key Bank to Ford Ave.. There are to many stretches without stores. It discourages people from walking down there to shop. And the parking is limited at that end of town. This I do not have a solution to.

    I speak from experience because my store was downstairs at 254 Main, on the corner of South Main St.. I could not afford to stay open. Nor could I rent a space anyway on Main St. due to the high rents.

    Two hour parking only allows one to eat and go. It’s hard enough to get people to shop downtown.

    Signage is poor to lousy. Sandwich boards is not the answer and a safety hazard. It would be great to have signs that are perpendicular to the store front. This should not be expensive nor have hefty permit fees.

    Shopping downtown should be made as easy as possible for the store owner and the consumer.

    Good luck,

    Susan Mulroy
    Ironwood Antiques & Collectibles

  20. The City of Oneonta should concentrate on improving the existing housing stock and filling vacant buildings that currently exist. There is no proven need for adding existing retail space or hundreds of apartments. This will be a wasteful boondoggle if it even occurs. I doubt that developers will commit millions of dollars to the creation of all this new retail space with relatively small incentives that will be given. What developer will spend $10-15 million dollars because the City offered a couple of million in grant money. They still have to pump millions of their own money into a City without need for these projects. Many of the projects offered in the Stantec proposal are in the 10 million dollar range. Does the City of Oneonta really think that developers are going to spend upwards of 50 million in the City? Please get realistic and use the 10 million wisely. Realistic projects like a new parking garage, removing the Ford Sales building, great signage, awnings for Main St. businesses and grant money to renovate existing housing stock are examples of realistic good options. Trying to leverage 10 million into 50 million or more will only get us into problems. There is little or no demand for 100 apartment units downtown or more retail space.

  21. Please put a counter on the page so the public can see the numbers of visitors. This would document interest and carry more weight to all interested parties. I think the website is a great idea to have the public give feedback to the steering committee. Good job!!

  22. While honestly I have not been following the information about the grant, I wanted to voice my opinion. As a business owner, I would love to see the City work on improving sidewalks and buildings to make it safer and easier for shoppers. I see so many buildings in Oneonta that are in disrepair and not being used because the landlords want to much, dont want to work on them and small businesses cannot afford it. The city should focus on helping with that. Another thing is I feel Oneonta needs a shared office space. Somewhere that small business owners can rent an office for a day or week or monthly in a shared space at a reasonable price. There are cities all over the country doing this and business is thriving because of it. Even Cooperstown has recently started one.

    I also wish as a business owner, that I did not have to live so far from my office. I cannot afford these ridiculous rent prices. If I want something on the cheapish side, I have expose my family to drugs, violence and filth. The city should recognize that the only places for rent are one of 3 things: 1) Student housing 2) Tourist housing or 3) Jacked up prices because of the demand. I can go 15 minutes to Unadilla and find places to rent for 1/3 of the cost of Oneonta.

  23. I think a better use of funds would be to renovate the existing structures in Oneonta, rather than build new. We have beautiful architecture, as you can see from all the other public comments. We do need to try and re-invigorate the down town area and these are ideas that I can suggest, from my own thoughts and others that have made suggestions:

    1) Renovate existing housing, try to minimize building new structures.
    2) Increase access to other areas of downtown by opening up walk ways, so you can walk to different areas. From Wilber Park to CANO to downtown, to market street, to the Foothills and to Neawah. Imagine being able to connect these points?
    3) Add bike paths so people can ride to and from their destinations and make bike racks available.
    4) Consider putting the high school or any portion of our public school, downtown, would that be possible? Imagine student’s and parents having to go downtown to pick up their kids and then shopping there?
    5) Review auto and pedestrian traffic flow and use age. Consider changing streets to walk way or changing the approach to downtown, in some way, to improve access to stores and encourage pedestrian access and increase parking by enhancing and improving access to the current garage.
    6) We need a grocery store open 7 days a week like Green Earth. They’ve done a wonderful job but some say we need a more general market? Could we partner with them and enhance their current offerings?
    7) Could we develop a movie theater as part of the Foothills or somehow re-use the Oneonta theater, downtown’s need a theater.
    8) Can we offer low interest loans or tax assistance or rent subsidies to aspiring new businesses, encouraging younger people to try to business ventures and help them to pay the rent. It’s expensive to rent store fronts and being a new business ,yet that’s what we want people to try and do. Cafes, bakeries, design shops, art gallery etc.
    9) Is there a way to make access to NYC, at least once a day, each way, more available? The bus takes between 4-5 hours, what about direct transport like Ithaca does (of course Cornell probably helps to fund this but could we partner with SUCO or Hartwick?)
    10) Consider how attractive it could be to have school, movie, market, shopping, recreation and housing all in one place and how that could attract more people.
    11) If we make Oneonta even more desirable, how could it not attract more interest and residents and visitors.

  24. The people of the city do not seem to care about their history or the historic building through out the city. Based on that, the government you oppointed follows suit. Sad state of things when the vision for the city involves building new while ignoring what’s already there. I own the Oneonta theatre. When I bought that building in 2009 the alley next to it and behind it were covered in needles every week. I would have to go out and very carefully clean up 50 plus needles . Slowly I got the problem under control and got the issue out of that section of downtown. I put substancial time and funds into the building. Applied for grants and many different types of assistance to make the theatre a more usable space. The one thing I learned is that I was a problem to local government who was more interested in funneling available grants to foothills and other high priority city projects while they continually ignored and declined to funal any of those grants towards a historic landmark. The previous mayor point blank wished I had never touched the theatre and let it fall to the ground. I had hoped that under this new administration the attitude would be different but to date I see no change after trying to open up dialogue and reach out for a potential partnership with the city. If the city goes this route you will lose an anchor. Many will not care but those that do should not be surprised and should not look to cast blame further than their selves for not caring or speaking out till after the fact.

  25. I am unconvinced that downtown needs new buildings built for housing (or even retail space)- at least at this point in time- or at least paid for with this public funding. If the other revitalization efforts succeed in making downtown Oneonta a more attractive destination, one would think that private developers would then be motivated to fill that need.

    Projects that I believe *would* make a difference:

    -Public restrooms on Main Street
    -Public restrooms at the Park(s) open *YEAR ROUND*
    -Emphasize historic/train theme (like horses/racing in Saratoga Springs, baseball in Cooperstown)
    -Replace lost Broad Street connectivity with a multitude of walkways, creating a choice of routes & spaces for people to meet- include lots of outdoor seating, tables, & shade. (The elevated walkway from the parking garage to Main Street is a wonderful feature!)
    -Install a circuit of outdoor adult exercise equipment from one end of the DRI zone to the other.
    -prioritize quality murals and outdoor (interactive?) art.
    (Simply re-skinning the parking garage with murals, and vertical planters-would be a huge improvement!)

    -Business incubation (Rather than wait for businesses to come to Oneonta, we should support entrepreneurs who can serve a local and global market)
    – *Food Trucks*
    – temporary office space
    – workshops
    – *AFFORDABLE ARTIST STUDIOS* (and/or live/work space)
    Historically, if you want to revitalize an area, get the artists in there & the rest will follow.

    -Hire an actual bicycle transportation expert/consultant to plan bike paths & routes
    -Lots of bike racks (can also be sculptural)

    I realize that Main Street could never become a pedestrian mall because it is also State Route 7. However, Main Street is most bustling & exciting when the road is closed for special events. Cambridge, MA closes a major route once a month for pedestrian/bikes/skates/etc. Perhaps Oneonta could coordinate a similar plan that would enable regular downtown events?
    Create a pedestrian mall on South Main Street from the Westcott lot down to Market Street, with tables, seating, & shade. Include electrical outlets for events, & maybe an outdoor stage?

    -Revolving loans for downtown businesses
    -City to pay for sign brackets? (artisanal blacksmith brackets would add personality!)

    Re: the Food Hub
    Sounds like that’s non-negotiable, as it is a core part of the original proposal.
    Who will be running this food hub?
    Earlier this year, Aaron McLeod from the Hartwick Craft Food & Beverage Dept contacted me looking for a place to have an event- he needed to seat 100+ people, have the use of a commercial kitchen, & be allowed to serve their own beer. We searched all over Delaware & Otsego Counties for a suitable space, but nothing was to be found. I think he may have settled on a church space? The Food Hub should definitely fill this need!

  26. Thank you Bryan. As a store owner on Main Street. I am glad to see interest being taken in this project. I also believe we should continue what has been started on Main St. . Developing all these additional apartments is “putting the cart before the horse”. This Development has been based on what has been done in Troy, NY. Troy itself has a similar population to Oneonta. What we do not have that Troy has is Albany and Schenectady within a 10 minute drive to draw people from. If the city is successful and we attract additional commerce that will support the type of development they are proposing I believe that would be the time to look at Santex’s proposal. I am afraid that if they continue on without a definite plan for implementing new jobs first as Ithaca has in their revitalization, we will have another under used building to maintain such as Foothills.
    In Saturday’s paper there was a wonderful article by Kristin LaBuz “Highlight Oneonta’s Strenths during revitalization” . She works in NYC as an urban planner and is originally from Oneonta and knows the dynamics of our community.
    I hope to see many people at the Tuesday night meeting and hopefully we will be able to ask our questions there and not just have round table discussions.

  27. Hi Theresa C,
    As the managing director of Foothills I agree with your comments except one. Since Oct 1 Foothills has hosted over 50 events in our building. That does not include the weekly music lessons here. We don’t feel under used at all! We are excited that the community has begun to look to us for all types of public and private events. We wish more people were aware of this situation.
    We encourage you, and everyone else, to follow us on face book as we post all the public and private events here each month. We want everyone to think of us as “Your Foothills”.

  28. Thank you everyone for taking the time to comment and in putting your name behind your statements. Your ideas and insight are much appreciated to all.
    Please note that I have just added a ‘Photos’ item to the menu which shows the retail vacancy problem in downtown.

  29. As the owner of Stella Luna restaurant, I feel obligated to say something.
    10 million sounds like a lot, but once the digging begins, it will fly away fast.
    I’m in agreement with most of you that say, “We don’t need more apartments and restaurants.
    Let’s look at downtown at all the vacant buildings and businesses closing their doors. Many of us are trying to stay alive during the winter months. Imagine another 10 more restaurants?!?!?
    Many landlords are struggling to rent their apartment houses due to the Hillside Apartments recently built, do we really need more apartments? No!
    We need better paying jobs, clean industry and a way to keep young adults to stay in Oneonta.
    The old Ford building, nothing against the owners, but it’s time…..either do something with it or have the city repossess it for recent value or purchase price.
    What we also need is a few anchor stores, e.g. ( H&M, American Apparel, The Loft, etc.) , a few stores for downtown that can attract the students and baseball families and tourists. A lot of baseball families come to town to spend money and often ask us, “Where do you go?”
    These same families travel with grandparents and younger children. How about a place downtown like Dave & Busters???? Something to keep them busy and spend money. Also make our parks more attractive for people to congregate to.
    So where should this 10 million go? How about fix all the potholes and roads, the sewer system, creating an inviting downtown area. Make the Lettis highway entrance/exit onto Main Street beautiful. Put up signage for all the businesses on each main intersection. Divert traffic away from Main Street, CLOSE THE DOWNTOWN AREA to cars. Make it walkable, bike and kid friendly. Make Main Street safer with cameras or lighting or best of all hire a few more police officers to walk the beat.
    And last of all, how about taking care of the people who have paid taxes for years and have lived in Oneonta for years by fixing their buildings or homes instead of easily handing money out to a newcomers that hasn’t paid their dues.
    I urge all business owners to unite and present our ideas to the committee at future meetings, for after all, we are the ones that stay alive during the highs and the lows of business.

  30. I have read the Stantec Preliminary Draft Action Plan report produced for the City of Oneonta. I am the owner/manager of over a hundred apartments in Oneonta, spread out of 50 apartment houses and downtown buildings. I have been in the rental business for over 40 years in the City of Onoenta. We lease to both students and families. I would like to first support Seth Clarks assertion (previous post) that there is currently very little demand for housing for families. When I have placed advertisements in our local paper or on Craig’s list, for family rentals, I receive very few inquiries from families looking for an apartment. I can go month’s without a single inquiry for extremely nicely renovated family units. A good friend of mine has one of the most beautiful rentals on Walnut St. right now that he has been unable to rent. My friend is only interested in a family and not students. So the myth that Oneonta is community that is in need of many apartments for families is a myth. There of course may be an occasional family that wants to relocate to Oneonta, but there is not an influx of families that would warrant building a large number of new rental units in the downtown area.

    I believe we should maintain our focus on renovation and preservation of our existing housing stock. We have many empty building on Main Street and throughout the center city. (see Photo Section of this website) I believe the typical Oneonta homeowner would prefer to have the vacant empty building that is located on the block where he lives renovated and occupied than more new housing created downtown. The typical Oneonta businessman would prefer funds to provide signage or renovate their exterior storefront than increased competition through the creation of new stores. There is nothing wrong with increased competition when there is a strong demand. However when demand is poor and existing businesses are struggling, increased competition only harms existing businesses.

    I am not against the renovation of the upper floors on Main Street into apartments. It needs to be done at a measure pace so that as a building comes online and is leased another building could be renovated. When a city is growing rapidly and a demand is obvious, there are developers clamouring to build. When government has to entice developers with grants and tax incentives it should be fairly obvious that the demand is not present.

    It would be great to either renovate the or raze the old Ford Sales building. There is nothing wrong with just creating more parking on that lot. I personally can never find a parking spot in the Clinton Plaza lot. Parking is a major factor in competing with the Southside Mall and every business on Main Street would benefit from more parking. Businesses and cities grow organically and the idea that “if you build it, they will come”, has proven untrue many times. The Soccer Hall of Fame is a prime example of that philosophy. The struggling Foothills is another example of building something that Oneonta is having difficulty supporting financially. Although Foothills is a wonderful facility, it is not self supporting and requires continuous fundraising to stay open. I sincerely hope that sizable portion of these funds is granted to foothills to ensure its continued existence. It does so many great things for our community and it’s survival is imperative

    I think we need to absorb that large number of units that the Silver Creek project and West St. housing projects have created. Lets not plan to create additional apartment units or more retail space prior to seeing the full effect of both Hillside Commons and Silver Creek on our beautiful City. Hillside commons has definitely negatively impacted the rental market. It is much more difficult to rent since Hillside Commons has been built.

    Please listen to the business community and residence of Oneonta that want this money spent preserving what we have, and not on the creation of more space that will further help deteriorate what we are trying to preserve!!

    Thank you!

  31. As a resident in the main block on Main Street. I have some thoughts on priorities for DRI spending.
    1. Allocate more money to restore and revitalize buildings and store fronts on Main Street.
    2. Restore the Oneonta Theater.
    3.Repair the parking garage. Including new brick facade, new stair towers. A roof on the top level with solar panels to power the garage and possibly other municipalities. Provide maintenance funds for cleaning the garage regularly.
    4. Revamp the bus terminal.
    5. New and better walkways to Market street from Main Street.
    6. New and more easy to read signage.
    7. Fix the Foothills acoustics.
    8. Buy the old train station ( Stella Luna’s) to use as a welcome center/ railroad museum/cafe.
    9. Put in an ice skating rink or other outdoor family friendly activity center on Market Street next to the old train station.
    10. Replace the old Ford building with the new food center including apartments above.

    Do not eliminate any parking or parking lots. Keep one hour parking on Main Street. It works very well.
    No boutique hotel, no new shops and no new apartments on Market Street (except in the new food center). Not until Main Street concerns are met.

  32. I just returned from a “public” meeting at Foothills” on the project. The ideas presented were a true fantasy. The Mayor and the Stantec group think that young professionals will come to the City to live and work. They say studies show that young professionals want to occupy urban areas where they can live and work. That is certainly true in NYC or Atlanta but it is definitely not true in Oneonta. In major urban areas there is a wide choice of museums, restaurants and recreational facilities to occupy ones time. In Oneonta they will have the same choice of two or three restaurants, no museums and very few interesting stores. How many times will a person be excited to walk to the Autumn Cafe or the Copper Fox? How many young professionals want to be surrounded by literally thousands of college students drinking every night and mobbing the streets? The Mayor said that studies have shown that working people have a moderating effect on the behavior of the students. This may be true on a center city block with college students mixed in amongst the neighbors. The neighbor will have interaction with the students. in this scenario there are going to be very few young professionals trying to moderate the behavior of literally thousands of students that are drinking. No study will show that the behavior of thousands of college students will be moderated by a small number of professionals .

    In addition, at the meeting a menu of choices was given from which the committee will evaluate what the audience thinks. Except the problem is that it was a “menu”. You have limited choices of how to respond. A very perceptive audience member indicated we need “group thinking” to come up with the best ideas. This seems very true. There was no forum for people to express the idea that many of us think the concept of adding large amounts of apartments or more retail space is fool hardy. Or to comment that you would need a huge influx of young professionals to create what they want to create. Even at best if they succeeded in getting 100 young professionals downtown, how many restaurants or stores would that support? That would be less than 1% increase in the general population of Greater Oneonta. How much more retail business or how many more restaurants will Oneonta support with a 1% increase in population? Time to voice your concern that you believe this is a terrible idea was not given.

    Lets not create more vacant storefronts and houses when this idea does not work. The developers that build will soon realize that students are willing to pay far more for apartments than families or young professionals. Then the downtown will become even more concentrated with students that leave the center city and we have bigger problems than were ever imagined. More blight and empty houses will be created.

    We have a community that works. Its a great place to raise a family. We have two fine colleges that bring in thousands of students. Lets not try and reinvent ourselves in an idea that will not work. Lets concentrate on what we have and make that better. You can make a better parking garage. You can raze the Oneonta Sales building or renovate it. You can make apartments in vacant second floors on Main St. I have heard of maker spaces with 3D printing manufacturing. Does one even exist for food? Can they tell us where it is so we can see it working. Or are we trying to invent a great idea that has never been done??

    I hope the this website will help bring like minded people together in a forum that all those that recognize that the Stantec Draft Plan is a fool hardy idea together to voice our opinion. We need to get a true opinion of what should be done with this wonderful gift that has been given to us. The people need to be involved. I hope someone can bring all those people together that oppose this idea or those that support it together to truly discuss it. Maybe we can all change some minds if it is truly discussed.

    In reading the comments above I believe there is a huge number of people that believe we are heading in the wrong direction. Lets get together and voice those concerns!!!

  33. The notion that students are moving out of student housing into better places, leaving more empty buildings to decay, is disturbing. For downtown to avoid continued deterioration we must find ways to help owners preserve their properties. With some help from the city I have done that to good effect. It was an excellent investment and the entire project was accomplished with local contractors. Current reluctant owners need to be shown the wisdom of restoration investment. Contrary to the claim that restoring old buildings is very expensive, in reality it is quite cost effective. New plumbing and wiring will likely be required, but there is a sound structure with electrical service and water supply in place. Simply tap in. There is cost, but nothing like the cost of building new. We have plenty of room for new apartments in undeveloped buildings. It is unfortunate that millions of dollars have to be spent on new construction when a similar investment could restore existing private structures and turn Main Street into a historic jewel. Let’s make substantially more grant money available to property owners on Main Street.
    A solar roof over the parking garage would be brilliant. In addition to the green advantage it would provide cover for the upper level eliminating the need for snow removal. This measure could help solve the severe drainage problem. Second level cars are currently exposed to large amounts of rusty water pouring down from above.
    A word of caution: In our rush to accomplish something new we could be abandoning Main Street by shifting focus to another location just because the money is there for one and not the other. Growing Market Street without restoring Main Street could result not in expansion but division. I strongly support revitalization but we must be certain to deal with our old problems.

  34. The 10 million grant, that money was spent as soon as hit the city. Citizen input, A JOKE…. The City is going to spend that money the way they envisioned it, before any ideas from the residents. A FOOD HUB really, on Market St. and yet you have the FHPAC that does ABSOLUTLEY nothing but waste the tax payers money, 50 events since Oct 1, plus lessons, really. The City couldn’t do something with that building instead having the Y.M.C.A. moving in. There is NO WAY my child is going there especially with the traffic, common since prevails here. Also, every time I read the local paper, nothing has been mentioned in regards to the city streets, ESPECIALLY MAIN ST. This is an accident waiting to happen, trying to avoid these uneven man hole covers is not fun, even the emergency vehicles are swerving into the other lane. What the city is telling me that, anything East of the post office and WEST (including West St.) of the Daily Star, OUT OF SITE, OUT OF MIND. I have some ideas, but again, the CITY has made up it’s mind, my input or anyone else’s in this forum will not make a difference. I to have lived here all my life, ever since Wally World and the SS mall along with other business have arrived, the city has not recovered. They say first impressions count, and yet, when I drive down Main St in the summer, I see a bunch of out of work people (same) sitting in Muller Plaza yelling across Main St. to someone on the 2nd floor to SHUT UP. I look to my Right and see vacant store fronts. It costs me 60 cents to go a total of 5 miles back and forth to South Side. They have Restaurants, Shopping, Entertainment, PARKING, most of all better roads than the city, I will take the traffic any day. Bottom line, DRI has made up its mind, and nothing will change that….

  35. First, let me say thank you for starting this page.

    I am going to cut right to one of my major concerns. Is there truly a market for this food hub, which seems heavily focused on craft beer? Many reports in recent months have indicated the growth in the craft beer industry is starting to slow.
    Layoffs are occuring at some of the more well-known craft breweries around the country. If there is one thing that we can count on in modern American society is that when it comes to trends and people’s tastes there is nothing you can count on. What’s popular one year, may be out of favor the next. I am a craft beer fan. But the market is flooded. Every community of any size in Upstate New York has a brewery and many have more than one. In dozens of other states it’s the same story. It is said there are “50 brewers” ready to go. But aside from the on-site restaurant, where is the market for their beer? Where is the shelf-space that will hold their beer? If the boom in craft beer is ending in 2016-17, where will it be in 2019-20. (Let’s be realistic. These types of projects never get completed on time.) Also, is there truly a market for craft food locally? Is there truly room for another restaurant locally? Prime 289 and The Red Caboose (farm to table) were two great restaurants, and although I suspect there were more than just financials involved in their closures, I highly doubt that if they were turning a large profit margin they would have gone out of business. At the least, there would have been a turn-key sale to another entrepreneur. The idea of shipping craft food to NYC sounds like a good one. But what would be the true economic benefit to the Oneonta and the county? Aren’t there businesses much closer to NYC in the Hudson Valley that are doing this already?

    Second, I’d like to address the entire idea of these types of public-private, grant-funded development projects that are so in favor in NY. Frankly, they generally underperform and create environments that breed corruption. There is a massive federal investigation into this very practice going on right now in New York State. It also verges on central economic planning. It cripples the free market system by picking winners and losers. The stark reality is Upstate New York is dying because over-taxation and over-regulation. We have lost nearly a million people in the last decade.

    Oh, and why did this project seemingly suddenly change its name to the “Mohawk Valley” Food and Beverage Innovation Center. I don’t care what the pencil pushers say, Oneonta is not in the Mohawk Valley. Yes, the extreme northern section of Otsego County might technically be in the Mohawk Valley, but Oneonta – bifurcated by the Susquehanna River – certainly is not. It’s that kind of politically motivated-mouth mushery that just leaves many people with a cynical taste in their mouths.

  36. Part I of III

    I am a city resident and owner of 70 market street, located right by the Neahwa Park entrance. My 24-unit building has been managed by several property managers from 2007 to 2012. The building was known as Margaritaville, the party place for students, nonstudents, and undesirables.

    As of 2013, my partner and I took over, hands on. Spent thousands of dollars on evictions, renovating apartments and the building, out of pocket, to produce what we felt could be, a valuable asset to this community.

    4 years later, we have maintained a nice balance of students, families (details in Part II), and professionals, coexisting in a party free and drug free building. But I have one problem, that is dealing with the city, and red tape! not once has a grant been given to me, and I tried! I feel money is allocated within a click, and not fair to all business owners. I am trying to keep it clean, but when you do some research, you will find how and where grant money has been dispersed. Isn’t this information supposed to be public knowledge? I would really love to see a list of 10 years worth of grant allocations posted, as I personally would like to rule out any “rumors”.

    2) Many of you already voiced most of my concerns, but yes, I must reiterate, I DO NOT see a demand for more housing! Not for students! Not for nonstudents! Please fix and help existing homes, businesses, and residents of Oneonta who pay high taxes, and struggle to stay alive in this stagnant town.

    3) It is important to address this following issue. Have you ever thought what tourists think of our town? As a host of 4 summer rentals, for 3 years now, I have spent time with baseball families and tourists visiting from all over the country, and I can tell you stories that would put this town to shame!

    Parents have commented how they do not feel safe walking our streets with their children, describing Oneonta as “ghetto”, a “ghost town” and other adjectives and adverbs that I cannot repeat on this site. They voiced how they wished they stayed in Cooperstown instead of our town; how unappealing and uninviting they find our town, specifically mentioning the vacant store fronts on main street, and all the run-down homes from market st, to main st, up to the colleges (including the exterior of my building).

    They also expressed their dismay encountering the non-working class on main street, specifically the Clarion court yard; pan handlers, Town House Inn, etc.; comments on not wanting to shop at our farmers’ market because they do not want to eat produce from an area which is used as a public urinal. How embarrassing!!! Oneonta, are you proud?


  37. Totally agree with the above. Oneonta will not change even with the 10 million. Coming from Chestnut St. to Main St, you see this PEE colored building in front of you (FHPAC), you take a left on to Main St and there is a TATOO shop, going further are empty buildings. You hit Muller Plaza and there people on SOCIAL SERVICES smoking, yelling and DRUNK, that’s a great FIRST IMPRESSION…oh, and then there are city streets, another fiasco. As far as a CITY MANAGER, Mayor, STEP UP and go full time, the 100k that will be spent could hire new people, but that won’t happen, POLITICS WILL PREVAIL here. On a final note, have you seen the bumper sticker going around, it says it all, “Oneonta New York, City of the HOLES, Life Avoid”…

  38. The notion that Market Street should be a focus of redevelopment needs to be examined. It seems to be predicated on the fact that Foothills is located there. Foothills is an ill-considered, never-completed, poorly-located and ill-funded project that cannot function as the City’s primary performing arts center for many reasons. A better use of redevelopment funds would be to restore the City’s existing performing arts venue, the Oneonta Theatre, and re-purpose Foothills -perhaps as a new government center, allowing the existing City Hall to become retail or restaurant space on Main Street. I see little chance that new apartments on Market Street will attract anyone other than students, while developing residential space above existing Main Street buildings may (while Seth Clark’s points are generally well taken, I would point to the former Bresee’s building and 1 Dietz Street as apartments that have drawn non-students downtown). Look into creating one or more upper level walkways across Main Street, allowing more pedestrian access without crossing at street level or dealing with snow and ice.

  39. I have lived and worked in Oneonta all my life. The one thing that is consistent regarding small towns and cities is the political back room decision making that occurs.
    We have an opportunity to do something special for our city with this new found money. I do commend our Mayor and all those who worked hard on securing these funds.
    No reasonable person could buy the premise that new professionals and new businesses are going to show up in Oneonta because we build something.
    It has been and will continue to be the mission of a few to push all students out of center city by what ever means possible. These proposed apartments are all located in areas that would be appealing to students. Close to bars and bus stop.
    We can not let this opportunity get highjacked by those who value their private war over the good of all.
    The food hub project has merit and should be explored further. Instead of trying to take the Ford Sales building from the 12 Tribes owners we should explore their willingness to invest further by expanding their food talents in that space.
    We should look at combining the Foothills with the food hub. Let’s not destroy the property values of center city and abandon our Main Street just to satisfy a few with a narrow agenda.
    This is a complex problem and needs all our skills to get it right. This not the correct action for our city. We can do better.

  40. The Food and Beverage Center.

    “The Mohawk Valley Food and Beverage Innovation Center and Market Street Development project addresses the intertwining problems of agricultural producers access to proximate urban markets, low median incomes and profitability for farmers, producers expansion through value-added production, and regional food producer collaboration.”
    Now that is a lot of fancy words. What does it actually mean for the common man? A higher cost for food. That what it sounds like to me. “…value-added production”. And Food and Beverage Innovation Center”…sounds like over eating and over drinking.

    My take on it all…It would be a lot smarter and simpler to make a Farmers Market Building. There would be small inside shops for year round use. Office space on th second floor. Plenty of parking. This draws people into town to shop for fresh produce. It gives farmers a place to sell. It could also increase more small farms. The people that will come to town to shop will want to have coffee at a coffee house or maybe breakfast. Check out the towns that have nice Farmers Markets.They attract people, businesses and quality of life. The politicians are getting all mixed up in ‘free market enterprises’. Government always wants to make it sound big and important, with our money!

    “Furthermore the proposed project will seek to decrease urban blight through remediation of a condemned building, to increase jobs in Otsego County’s largest city and to partner with local workforce training initiatives to prepare hard-to-place workers in ag-related occupations.”
    “…decrease urban blight.” One building is going to decrease urban blight! And the expense to tear down the building that is there? What about that big empty lot next to the Foot Hills Center? There are so many empty buildings in and around Main Street Oneonta, yet you want to build another building that will probably end up empty in a few years.
    As to ag-related occupations….get real, no one wants to work that hard any more. And there is not enough money in that profession. It is a labor of love to work on the land.

    You want to help the economy? Attract more small farming to this area. Then these farmers will have to come into town for supplies and a break. They will need a place to sell. Then there will be a need for someone to create a business that delivers the farmers produce to New York City and surrounding towns. It sounds like you are putting the cart before the horse.

    R Scott Duncan
    Hartwick Forrest

    January 2017

  41. I have been unable to attend a meeting due to a rigorous practice schedule for a group I’m in, but I am young, woman business owner in town and would like to thank you for creating this page! I have so badly wanted to engage in the conversation and have been unable to up until now.

    I am part of the demographic who’s second nature is to order something and have it at their house the next day. What makes people want to come out to shop, is above everything else, the experience. One store does not make the experience- nor does a street sprinkled with them amidst vacant buildings that need to be cleaned. The experience is the whole package- safety counts, aesthetics count, unique attractions count!

    Something like the food/brew hub is something that would pull someone like me to visit. It’s a unique destination, and if it’s coupled with a thriving, friendly downtown I absolutely know that would be on my weekend rotation of trips if I were from another area. When I think back to some of my favorite places I’ve visited, the common thread between them is consistent business- be it food, retail, etc. so I know I’ll be greeted by a vibrant community when I arrive.

    I do not believe that new open storefronts will attract businesses to come. I think that is an excellent idea down the road, and am all for expansion if we can first deal with filling our current spaces, and can incentivize other businesses to start up here. It’s tremendously costly starting a business, and very difficult to hire right off the bat. I constantly hear young people saying that they love the area, but that there just aren’t enough jobs around to make it worth it. I want to see more young people starting things here, and they can’t do that if they can’t afford it.

    I also hugely feel like there is a divide on main street because of the dead zone of vacant buildings. It would be amazing to see those buildings filled, and then you could spread from there. Seems like a natural progression!

    In terms of housing, I have been on the side of the young professional living on main street. It was definitely not for me- I did not feel safe, I could not sleep and I was pretty much counting down my days until I could move to the outskirts of town. This is not the case for all young professionals, but it might be something to consider in the process if that is the route we go. Maybe this could be combatted with preventative safety measures and a way to make it quieter.

    I have felt tremendous community support from the start of my business. That right there is our strong suit. That is what makes people want to stay, and have young people invest in the area. I have stayed here, despite the comments people make in my shop about how well it could do in a metropolitan area, because I feel that support, and want to be part of the hive that continues to build it for everyone!

  42. While it may be a bit simplistic, please let me offer these most fundamental thoughts; I believe the revitalization theme and strategy for center city should revolve around Oneonta’s 3 major strengths:
    * education
    * health care
    * baseball

    Also, the outcomes to be derived from the overall project and its component initiatives need to:
    * create and sustain many long term jobs; ideally good paying jobs.
    * the ability to leverage private investment; at least 3 times the $9.7 State pledge.
    * dramatically reducing the “in-City” tax rate

    While the program target development area is Downtown Oneonta, what is done there is critical to the successful renewal of the entire City; indeed the area. Best wishes and good luck to all!

  43. I am no longer allowing anonymous comments. Things are getting a little out of hand. You must now submit a valid email address and your full name with comments. Email addresses will not be shared. Thank you

  44. Seth Clark here again. Here is an update on our efforts. I spent Friday and Monday afternoon taking a petition up and down Main St. The petition says:

    “We do not support the grant being used for acquiring the Ford Sales Building in Oneonta, NY to develop a food hub, apartments, retail and office space. Our Main St. cannot afford two retail, housing and restaurant areas. This community would like a plan that could bring substantial employment, preserve our Main St. architecture and capitalize on what our beautiful city has to offer. We would like to see the concentration of the funds used to finish developing our Main St.”

    I got 50 signatures, all either Main St. business owners or employees. We did not by any means get every business person on Main St. In the coming days we will be going around again to get more signatures. However, I have to say the response to the petition has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Of the people asked to sign, only 3-5 people refused. This is indicative of an overwhelming pushback against the City’s plans from the people currently doing business on Main St.

    From the conversations I’ve had, the reasons people have for disagreeing with the City vary. Some are concerned about more retail space bringing unwanted competition. Some are concerned about building more apartment buildings downtown when so many of our downtown buildings are already vacant. Some are worried that not a high enough percentage of the funds is being used to bolster already existing Oneonta landmarks, like Foothills and The Oneonta Theater. Some are concerned that the food and beverage innovation center won’t work. And some people are thinking that whether or not the Innovation Center is a good idea, stealing a building from the 12 tribes to make the project happen just isn’t the right thing to do.

    There is an article about this on the front page of today’s Daily Star. As noted in the article, we have leased The Foothills Atrium Next Wednesday, February 15, at 7:00 PM for an Open Community Forum. The topic of discussion is the City’s grant and plans for spending it. We hope everyone reading this site can attend. We are going to invite everyone attending to share their opinions, and we are going to make every effort to allow everyone to speak who wishes to address these issues.

  45. Seth Clark and RIck Weinberg have aptly summed up the folly of using the grant money for more apartments. The current supply far outweighs the demand. I have a small real estate rental company in Oneonta and have found it increasingly difficult to find tenants over the past few years following the Hillside Commons, West Street and Silver Creek projects. It is very easy for people not in the business to pontificate about the lack of quality housing. A sure way to cause more deterioration in the existing rental housing stock is to make current owners compete against themselves with taxpayer subsidized construction of more rental units. Landlords cannot afford to maintain vacant properties!

    The Food Hub concept is badly flawed as well. If there was a true demand for it, enterprising business people would fill it. The government is only needed when the demand in the free market is too low to realistically sustain something (such as Foothills). In addition, the attempted hijacking of the property from the Twelve Tribes is a perversion of the principle of eminent domain. This project is not equivalent to using a forced sale of property for a school, highway, or some other genuine public use.

    On a superficial level, it sounds wonderful for the community to be “given” ten million dollars. In reality, it works well for the politicians who want to ingratiate themselves to the voters. When the facts are objectively examined, however, we would all be better off if there were no grants like this and taxpayers kept more of their own money to spend in their communities in ways that they see fit. This is the way an economy really grows–not from redistribution to projects that are decided by central planners and/or special interests. I may be the lone voice on this, but Oneonta and all New York communities would be better off if Andrew Cuomo cancelled this shell game and lowered our income taxes instead.

  46. Hi everyone, I want to thank everyone for posting their comments and opinions about the DRI proposals. The only thing I’d like to add right now is about the DRI meeting times. It was brought to my attention that some still feel that the 1-3 pm times was to keep the public away. The time was actually chosen out of respect for the officials who needed to come for the meetings from out of town. In response, they agreed to host the meetings at night so the public could work together and give their opinions (this also worked better for those of us on Common Council who have full time jobs and can’t attend the earlier times). As was written in the Daily Star today, the DRI committee is interested in residents’, business owners’ and property owners’ ideas…they just need to make sure the ideas reflect to some degree the City’s original proposal submitted to the state for the grant. If you have any questions, feel free to contact your County Reps, the mayor or council members.

  47. I will be out of town on the 15th but wanted to add a comment.
    There is a lot to process regarding all these projects and without all the details it is difficult to make quality comments and suggestions.
    I would like throw my two cents in about the “Ford” building.
    The current owners have been good business people in Oneonta for several years now. To take property from people who are contributors without fully exploring there capacity to improve the site with these new funds sends the wrong signal to any other business about how our local gov’t values you. Before we kick them to the curb let’s see if we can get more value for our dollars by using there old school skills with our new wants.
    I would like be be there to hear all the comments, enjoy and be kind to each other.

  48. “Mohawk Valley Food and Beverage Innovation Center”
    I look that up, I didn’t believe that I lived in the Mohawk Valley. Technically, I do, because of how the rivers flow into the Mohawk River. But generally it’s referred to the area around the Mohawk River. This idea smells like political games created behind desks and not out in the real world. So why don’t we call it the “Susquehanna Valley Food and Beverage Innovation Center?
    How can you get innovative about food and beverage? Vitamin supplements are good example of somebody getting innovative. They pulled vitamins and minerals out of the food and them put them in a tablets and said we should take them. Now we pay for food and vitamins. Why not just buy healthy produced food? So many innovations have ruined the quality and importance of our food supplies.
    We live in a farming area and there is a growing number of small farmers who are dedicated to creating healthy food. If you were to ask me I would say Oneonta needs a farmers market that is open year-round. It could be designed to open air in the summer and then closed up in the winter. That way some of the shops could be open year round. Plenty of parking to attract people, and to attract farmers. I enjoy the Cooperstown farmers market I go to town early spend money on a breakfast go to the market see some friends and pick up fresh food for the week. You want a draw to Downtown Oneonta…check out the farmers markets in different cities. They are also a tourist draws.
    I would propose a farmers market in the empty space that is next to the Foothills Center. Second-floor could be a commercial kitchen and then on the third floor they could have their so called “innovation” offices.
    The idea of combining commercial space and living space, I fear would create too many zoning problems down the road, just a thought…

  49. I just sent the following email. I am posting it for all to see so others can understand my concerns.

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Bryan Shaughnessy
    Date: Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 9:41 AM
    Subject: concerns regarding eminent domain & location of new apartments
    To:,,,,,,,,,,,,, Meg Hungerford , Gary Herzig ,, “Kleniewski, Nancy”
    Cc: Joe Vallette

    Common Council
    Oneonta County Reps
    Mayor Herzig
    Steering Committee members

    As many of you know, I have been involved with the DRI process. I live in Oneonta at 6 North Belmont Circle and I own 20-22 Market Street. Dave Rissberger put a comment on my web site ( stating among other things “If you have any questions, feel free to contact your County Reps, the mayor or council members”. Thank you Dave for your comment. I appreciate your involvement on this and your service to the community.
    I am sending this email because I am hoping opposition will be voiced over the use of eminent domain on the Twelve Tribes warehouse. It has been brought to my attention that photos of my building (20-22 Market St) are on 3 different PowerPoint slides in a presentation that was done by Otsego Now a while back. Photos of my building appear along-side the Twelve Tribes warehouse as a ‘discussion’ property. See document It is a little unsettling to see this.
    My family and I moved to Oneonta seven years ago in order to make the apartment building at 20-22 Market Street successful. When we moved to Oneonta we gave up a lot including careers and proximity to family. Oneonta is now home to us. We need to remember there are real people in our community that are behind these buildings. It is disturbing to see the use of eminent domain on the building across the street from me for a project that is not popular with the public. If the eminent domain process is allowed to proceed we will set a dangerous precedent. The question will be: Who’s next?
    I first got involved in the DRI process when I attended the public workshop on December 13th at Foothills. Shortly after that, Joe Vallette (owner of 10 Market St) and I attempted to persuade steering committee members that building housing for non-students in the middle of a busy student night life neighborhood is a bad idea. The chosen location (Twelve Tribes warehouse) is wrong because it is surrounded by bars and student housing on all sides. Pushing forward with the current plan will have negative consequences for our community. Joe Vallette and I rent to all students. Our tenants understand that packs of college kids will be strolling around in the streets bouncing between bars and being loud at late night hours. Water Street is like our version of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The intersection of Water Street and Chestnut Street is probably the epicenter of all student night life. Most notably, in late August and September there literally will be thousands of students that will walk through this area on a given weekend night. Many of these students are intoxicated at some level. The future non-students who move into this neighborhood will call on our police force to try to dampen the activity and noise. As a result, the police will have added responsibility. Cracking down on the late night student activity will just cause this activity to be transferred elsewhere. I know most city residents would prefer to keep the college student activity out of the residential neighborhoods. We need to be realistic about our plan. We have almost 7,500 students and they want to go out and be social from 10pm-2am. Let’s not create problems for ourselves.

    Thank you,
    Bryan Shaughnessy

  50. Revitalization needs to take place on Main Street. I moved to Oneonta in 1980. Main Street was a hub of activity. One could meet friends for breakfast then shop for men’s, women’s and childrens clothing while greeting friends and neighbors along the way. It truly was a place of action. Southside and box stores took much away. We can restore action to our vacancies by offering rental incentives to new businesses. Who wouldn’t want an OLD NAVY on Main Street!
    Only creativity is needed to carry out such plans. Lets not throw out the baby with the bath water!

  51. I am a member of the Oneonta Farmers Market and wish to offer a couple of comments. The market is in operation year round – May through October on Muller Plaza and November through April in the Main Street Walkway.

    It is very disheartening to hear that tourists do not choose to attend the market because of things that happen on the Plaza during off hours.

    A representative of the market has been at each of the public meetings and have voiced our position. We would be very much appreciative for the vacant lot next to Foothills to create a year round market space – open concept in the summer and closed sides in the winter. There is an opportunity there for a market building, playground and parking spaces. We have spoken of this idea on numerous occasions and have met with little support. The farmers market has been a presence and committed to the City and its residents for 40 years. We wish to continue to be present in the City for many more years to come as a place to get to know your farmer, source quality, local products and to learn more about food and agriculture.

  52. 2/16/17
    I attended the open forum at FHPC last night and woke up feeling like – 10 Million Dollars can’t possibly be a problem. I agreed with almost all concerns raised and also believe that there may be nuggets of good ideas in the City proposal, which I read this morning.

    One participant, I believe his name is John, discussed how a planning process can be extremely effective. I know it may feel like a setback but I see a need to renew the plan with respect to goals and to the adage recycle, renew and repurpose. What was old could be new again and the charm of Oneonta is of the vintage variety.

    Finally, those who plan must be a cross section of our community. They should represent all ages, economic strata, commercial and residential and small business sectors. Leaders are well represented in the current plan, especially educational, not for profit and government. Let’s get folks who are currently generating income and carrying signicant payroll involved in this process. It is hard to understand and calculate the risk to benefit ratio unless you have a dog in the fight, so to speak. It is not too late to come up with a great plan that will float all boats and make our town thrive.

  53. I also attended the open forum and was most pleased to hear all the ways we can make good use of the funds.

    Michael Rothbart’s comments stood out to me because he described a proven formula that makes good horse sense.

    From the community’s comments, we ultimately all wish for the same things:
    Thriving, profitable businesses
    Safe, beautiful, preserved neighborhoods and streets
    Great jobs with high paying wages
    A sustainable industry to promote capital circulation
    And prudent use of the financial gift with a lasting positive impact.

    This is a tremendous opportunity for the community to reap long lasting rewards for wise investments of time and finds.

    Can we get behind Michael’s suggestion, take the bull by the horns, and steer the funds to achieve the community’s goals?
    I vote yes to this concept! Are others in favor of this?

    Michael, please post the process you described at the forum that achieved positive results in Madison.

  54. I have been an Oneonta resident since 2009. I attended the community meeting on Feb 15. I have not been involved in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative planning until now.

    My observation from this week’s meeting is that there has not been sufficient community participation in the process so far. Previously I was on a Plan Commission when I lived in Wisconsin, and my experience there is that such participation is essential to get public buy-in on any project. The best format I’ve seen for this is a design charette (a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions).

    At the last meeting I raised a few questions that I hope the committee will consider and seek public opinion about:
    1. What is the primary goal of this initiative? Do we want to improve quality of life for current residents, or attract new visitors, residents and businesses? This answer will inform which projects are priorities to include in the initiative. Ideas for improving quality of life can come from people who currently live or work here. However, if our main goal is to attract new people, we need to decide (1) do we want tourists and short-term visitors (in which case we need to create attractions and events that will draw them here) or (2) do we want new residents (in which case we need to create job opportunities or attract new businesses that will create these jobs). Either variation would need market research about what is most likely to be successful here.
    2. What is the process for making these decisions? The reality is that grant deadlines are coming soon. How can we make good community-supported decisions at this point without derailing the process or risk Oneonta losing this funding? I see the original proposal called for three phases for the project. Are the noncontroversial elements of the initiative we can put in phase 1, thereby buying time for a more inclusive community process to hammer out phase 2 and 3?
    3. What projects are the right fit for Oneonta, meeting our current needs and realistic future needs? Can we brainstorm, discuss, argue, prioritize and then winnow ideas down to a few agreed priorities? I know a lot of work has already gone into this proposal, and I am grateful to committee members who have worked so hard, and now I think it is time for us all to evaluate.

    No one has asked me my opinion on what I’d like to see, but if I was asked, here is how I would spend some of the $10 million:
    1. An indoor rock-climbing gym
    2. A bike center: a community space where people could do bike maintenance and a public-private partnership or nonprofit to run the space and also to develop and promote mountain bike trails in the Oneonta area, perhaps with an annual mountain bike race or festival.
    3. An Indian or Ethiopian or Turkish restaurant, or better yet, a “flexible restaurant” space where chefs from NYC or Albany would be invited for 2 weeks at a time to do a community class and serve amazing meals for customers, perhaps with SUNY Oneonta restaurant administration majors involved.
    4. A giant outdoor playground in Neawha or Huntington park. Something big and exciting enough that adults would want to play on it and visitors from an hour away would come for the day to use. (Here are two places in Philadelphia that inspired me: (check out the 40 foot long Giant Wooden Slide!) and the Morris Arboretum Tree Canopy Walk (
    5. A “Sanctuary House” = six subsidized apartments in a renovated building, to house five recent immigrant/refugee families, plus a unit for an on-site social worker who could help these families get established in the community.
    6. An annual street art/sculpture competition with grants/prizes to subsidize the artists, and a dozen locations around Main Street where the art would be displayed outside for a year. It could be a themed project (such as or open-ended.

    I am sure I could think of another dozen ideas, and in a way that is my point. We all have good ideas. Often the limiting resource is funding, but another limit is the amount of volunteer labor and community involvement it takes to make any project succeed.

    The current official project list has many new construction ideas, but few of the type of labor-intensive projects such as those I’ve listed. There is a reason for that: it takes community enthusiasm and years of effort to get such things off the ground. However, this community engagement is precisely what we need to improve our city, and I think it ideally starts at the beginning, now, at the idea stage.

    Thank you.

  55. Please visit our new web site:
    There is a comment section there which refers to this page.
    I am closing out the comments section on this site.
    Thank you all for commenting. I will not allow your comments to be forgotten!

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