Big money: Cortland gets $10 million in state funding to revitalize downtown

CORTLAND, N.Y. - The city of Cortland has been awarded $10 million from New York State as the Central New York winner of the second round of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Governor Andrew Cuomo made a rare appearance in Cortland this morning to deliver the good news to the city inside a packed auditorium at Cortland Repertory Theatre at 24 Port Watson Street.

The governor said he considered Cortland to be part of a "tech triangle" in upstate New York with Syracuse and Binghamton.

"How do we develop smart growth? Downtown revitalization, which is very big, especially for your community," Gov. Cuomo said. "Millennials are very different than past generations. They don't want to move out to the suburbs and have a house and a patio and a barbecue. They like the downtown areas, they like the vibrancy."

From left, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky, and Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin announce $10 million in state funding to improve Downtown Cortland (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

The city's plan for revitalizing downtown called for the redevelopment of second and third story apartments on Main Street, some of which have remained vacant for decades. It also included plans for improving infrastructure on Main Street and Clinton Avenue; the construction of a flagship hotel in the downtown area with at least 85 rooms; a downtown movie theatre; an arts alley; and expanding local businesses like the Cortland Beer Company and the Local Food Market.

"We were able to show that we have a vision to improve the whole community," Mayor Brian Tobin said after receiving the award. "We're not just asking for a handout. We're saying, 'If we do this, here are the benefits that we will see."

City officials hope to construct a flagship hotel on Main Street.

Tobin said his vision for the future of the city includes more desirable housing options, minimal building vacancies, and a more walkable, greener downtown—though city officials recognize that opportunities for new development are, at times, scarce.

"One of the concerns for the city is that we are approximately 4 square miles, and we're fairly built out," he said. "There's not a lot of new developed land. So what we have to do is develop projects and do things where we already have the property."

Cortland is one of only nine municipalities across the state that was selected for the $10 million grant. Other recipients include the city of Rome, the village of Watkins Glen, and the city of Olean in western New York.