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January 30, 2013

Planner highlights revitalizing downtown spaces

Renovating older, deteriorated buildings can be a key to broader revitalization in a community’s downtown, an architectural and preservation planner said Tuesday night.

“The charm you find on a downtown street can’t be beat,’’ Randy Crawford of Crawford & Stearns in Syracuse told about 85 people at a program at the Elks Lodge in Oneonta.

Crawford illustrated his talk with many “before-and-after’’ photographs of renovated buildings in communities such as Potsdam, Watertown, Auburn, Syracuse and Canajoharie.

Financial factors that can help meet expenses of a project include historic or low-income tax credits, Crawford said. He urged serious consideration of a local historic preservation district.

He warned against completing with malls and said to focus on making “downtown a special place.’’ He encouraged groups and would-be developers to form partnerships and for small businesses to become involved.

Russ Southard, Common Council member from the Sixth Ward, said he appreciated seeing examples of projects that worked and hearing about possible funding sources.

“You want to try to make downtown as vital as you can,’’ he said.

The program was sponsored by the Greater Oneonta Historical Society and Main Street Oneonta

Locally, Crawford has worked on several Oneonta properties on the state and national registers of historic places, including the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s History Center, The Armory, the Swart-Wilcox House, the Unitarian Universalist church and the Wilber Mansion.

GOHS Executive Director Bob Brzozowski said Crawford worked well with the center to restore facade of the building at the corner of Main and Dietz streets. The improvements have been had a positive impact on other projects to enhance appearances downtown, said Brzozowski, Common Council member from the Seventh Ward.

“We’re all stakeholders in this,’’ he said after the meeting.

Kay Stuligross, Otsego County Board of Representatives member from the city of Oneonta, said seeing what “a bit of vision’’ could produce was interesting. Oneonta already has done a lot in terms of revitalization, she said.

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