Downtown Revitalization Initiative transformsOswego’s business hub
By Lou Sorendo
As the SUNY Oswego college community returns for the fall semester, downtown Oswego is already making the grade with a significant facelift.
Students, faculty and administrators got a taste of things to come this past April when a series of projects associated with the city’s $10 million state-funded Downtown Revitalization Initiative broke ground.
Today, West First and Water streets in the city are featuring improvements that can only enhance the downtown experience for the college population, residents and tourists alike.
City of Oswego Mayor William “Billy” Barlow said the DRI is designed to enhance public space and make downtown more enjoyable for everyone.
“For the SUNY Oswego community specifically, many of our DRI projects are mixed-use developments that include quality residential living units on upper stories,” Barlow said. “We want to introduce quality units to our downtown because if people live downtown, they typically spend time downtown and help generate more economic activity.”
Barlow said the college population deserves quality places to live.
“Currently, our rental market doesn’t offer some of the quality conditions people are looking for,” he said. “These projects will raise the standards for rental units in the city, place folks in the heart of our downtown, and should generate spin-off economic activity.”
Key projects on the west side include the recently completed Water Street Square pocket park between West First and Water streets; improvements to Water Street; state Route 104 Complete Streets; and the construction of three West First Street buildings that will feature commercial and living space.
Barlow said the pocket park is a place to offer unique entertainment while also providing an area for people to congregate and spend time downtown.
“This area can be a place for small concerts and other entertainment, but can also be a relaxing area to meet friends for coffee, do homework outdoors, or simply hang out,” he said.
The state Route 104 Complete Streets project — through crosswalk and safety improvements on West Bridge Street — is designed to help people easily cross the busy thoroughfare and slow traffic as it passes through the core of downtown.
Whole new look
One of the three major West First Street projects is the skyline-transforming Litatro Building located at the former site of Global Buffet, 189 W. First St. Demolition is finished and the project is under construction, with completion set for the fall of 2020.
The five-story facility will feature a 7,500-square-foot first floor devoted to commercial interests, while 22 apartments will occupy the other floors.
The second is 22 Crossroads at 147-161 W. First St. The four-story, 44,000-square-foot building will have 32 apartments and about 8,300 square feet of commercial space. Completion of construction is expected in the summer of 2021.
The third project is Harborview Square, a 66-unit apartment complex with 10,000 square feet of retail and commercial space at 68 W. First St. Also under construction at the site are 18 freestanding townhouse-type units. The project is under construction with expected completion in the summer of 2021.
Barlow said all the projects with the quality upper-story residential options are specifically targeted to SUNY students looking for a “great” place to live that is centrally located, or SUNY Oswego staff who may be transient and do not want to purchase a house and deal with associated maintenance that comes with home ownership.
DRI projects that are complete are the former Cahill building at the foot of West Seneca Street and the Children’s Museum of Oswego, 7 W. Bridge St., which features a renovated look as well as exhibit improvements.
The Cahill Landing project features the restoration of the historic 191-year-old Cahill fisheries building into an upscale waterfront residential apartment building.
Meanwhile, another core DRI project — the Lake Ontario Water Park — will feature a 16,000-square-foot facility that will be connected to the Quality Inn & Suites Riverfront off East First Street. The project is under construction with completion estimated early in 2021.
Also on the east side will be the East Lake Commons, LLC project, located at the former Midtown Plaza at the corner of East First and Cayuga streets.
The 88,000-square-foot, six-story mixed-use facility will offer mixed-income apartment units, plus retail, commercial and office space.
Other projects included in the state DRI funding are river walk improvements; the establishment of a revolving matching grant fund for small businesses; and façade restoration at the Buckhout-Jones building, home to the CMOO, set for this fall.