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January 23, 2013

Firm plans off-campus housing complex

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — Plans for a student apartment complex on Blodgett Drive are in the works, a developer said Tuesday, with goals to submit formal applications to the Oneonta Planning Commission soon and hopes of opening for the 2014 academic year.

Newman Development Group, a private company in Vestal, proposes building a structure at the end of Blodgett Drive, which is off of Bugbee Road, near the State University College at Oneonta campus.

The project is a private venture not affiliated with the public college.

Newman Development vice president Jeffrey Smetana reviewed the project during a sketch-plan conference with the Oneonta Planning Commission last Wednesday. The firm will submit more complete plans, possibly in the next couple of weeks, and move toward the formal review process, he said, and construction could begin this summer if all goes smoothly, with a projected opening for occupancy next year.

The Oneonta project would have 320 to 325 bedrooms, mostly in a three bed-room configuration, Smetana said. Each apartment would have a kitchen, living room, washer and dryer, he said, and each bedroom would have a bathroom.

College students are looking for “highly amenitized’’ housing options, which have developed in the past 15 years, Smetana said, and such prototypes are available to students attending colleges in Geneseo, Oswego and Brockport.

Dennis Finn, Oneonta Planning Commission chairman, estimated 40 to 45 people attended the meeting in Common Council Chambers last Wednesday. The meeting was to listen to the developer about the project, Finn said, and a time wasn’t designated for public comments.

The Planning Commission’s later review will include a State Environmental Quality Review Act study and a time for comments from the public during meetings, Finn said Tuesday.

The commission already has received some letters regarding a possible negative impact on Oneonta landlords with student-rental properties, said Finn, who encourages concerned citizens to write their comments in a letter addressed to the commission and sent to the attention of City Clerk James Koury, City Hall, 258 Main St., Oneonta.

Finn said the developer told commissioners that the project’s impact on privately owned student housing in the city would be minimal because the apartments would be more-expensive rental units.

Newman Development will have to address commissioners’ concerns about landscaping and buffering, water runoff and building security, among other SEQRA questions, Finn said, and plans will have to be reviewed with city engineering officials.

Of about 5,725 undergraduates enrolled full-time at the State University College at Oneonta, about 3,350 live on campus, college officials said. The college has 15 residence halls.

The apartment complex would be open to full-time college students, a use that Newman Development attorneys have determined is legally acceptable, Smetana said.

The apartment complex would feature a secured lobby, a fitness center, a computer lab, study lounges and a cafe, Smetana said. A company, Campus Apartments, would be hired to manage the building, and its staff would include an on-site manager, assistant manager and a facilities manager, plus other staff, he said.

The project would be similar to Newman Development’s Twin River Commons in Binghamton, which opened last year, Smetana said. Construction of that project was completed in June last year, two months ahead of schedule, he said, and the 371-bed complex is fully occupied.

A marketing study determined a housing need in Oneonta for an additional 340 and 380 beds for college students, Smetana said. The cost of the privately financed project is still under development as is the range of rents, he said.

The property would be taxed by the city of Oneonta, Smetana said, and the firm would be seeking a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan.

In other business Wednesday, Finn said, the commission approved site plans for the Stewart’s Shops store at 43-47 Main St., which plans to construct an addition and other improvements.

Commissioners also approved site plans for Hartwick College to build an addition to Dewar Student Union and renovations. Finn said the approval was granted with conditions, including that the college meet with the city engineering department to assure that plans address any water runoff and sanitary sewer impacts.