Springbrook makes big plans for Oneonta's Ford Block

Julie Lewis | The Daily Star The Ford Block at Main Street and Muller Plaza in Oneonta is shown Thursday, Dec. 19.

Springbrook Executive Director Patricia Kennedy said Springbrook has plans to renovate downtown Oneonta's historic Ford Block.

Oneonta’s Ford Block is located at 180-202 Main St. Kennedy said she envisions between 20 and 24 market rate apartments that will be “luxurious in feeling, but not in cost.”

The first step in a long process, Kennedy said, was Springbrook's receipt of $800,000 as part of the 2019 Regional Economic Development Council awards given out in late December. 

Kennedy said the proposed project would alleviate the lack of housing she said area professionals and recent college graduates deal with.

“We're seeing many employers are saying there's not the availability of rentals for our employees," Kennedy said. "That's our target group. I also think it will be accessible and interesting to other people.”

Springbrook has also applied for a vacant upper-floor housing grant through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and hopes to hear back soon, she said.

Springbrook’s Board of Directors and Springbrook Foundation’s Board of Trustees formed a special planning committee to look at the project's strategy and intent, Kennedy said.

With a good trajectory, the hope is for the project to start sometime in the spring, Kennedy said. However, she emphasized that nothing will happen until the special committee vets plans, ensures sound project funding and establishes the best partnerships.

Oneonta's Ford Block is on the National Register of Historic Places. The proposed renovations would preserve the historic character of the property, Kennedy said. 

She said Springbrook is looking into finding architects that are familiar with historic buildings. The building's exterior, though beautiful, isn't energy efficient, she said. This would be addressed by looking at things like the building's windows and its facade. 

She added that Springbrook would communicate with tenants to "support their interests, growth and success" when the building's ownership is finalized. Springbrook has a purchase option on the buildings, according to an informational document about the Ford Block proposed plans emailed to The Daily Star by Kennedy.

Kennedy said Springbrook will also be looking into reinvigorating the basement level of the property, which she said has been underutilized. 

She said Springbrook has looked at housing needs in both a qualitative and quantitative sense by talking to people and hiring a consultant firm to gather data on the need for the type of rental units Springbrook is proposing. 

"Based on that, it was thought to be a very good investment," Kennedy said. 

Kennedy said Springbrook worked with a developer in Johnson City on a project to renovate a historic building. The project, Century Sunrise, reinvigorated a part of the city in decline, according to the informational document. The Ford Block project is very similar, Kennedy said. 

"We really wanted to invest in our community and invest in our future employers," Kennedy said. "We will only be as successful as Oneonta is and we want to be a key partner in helping that happen."

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

Recommended for you