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February 14, 2012

 

IDA reverses course on burned-out building

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandardnews.net

The Cortland County Industrial Development Agency does not plan to take over the long-vacant Main Street building ravaged in a 2005 arson, giving the owners another chance to develop the building.
Over the last few months, the IDA had talked about taking ownership of the building — located at 51-55 Main St. — through eminent domain, but that is now on “the back burner,” said IDA Executive Director Garry VanGorder.
VanGorder met last week with Emmanuel Pothos, who manages the building. Pothos wants to develop the building and will do some work to improve its appearance as he puts together a larger plan, VanGorder said.
VanGorder said pursuing eminent domain was a last resort for the IDA. He said Pothos will make a “good-faith” effort to create his own plan and that the IDA would work with him as the process moves along.
VanGorder said Pothos promised to repair the doors and windows this summer to “make the building look presentable at the center of our Main Street.”
VanGorder said it is important those cosmetic changes happen before the New York Jets arrive for training camp.
“We need to see progress there,” VanGorder said.
There is no timeline for when Pothos will have a full development plan in place, VanGorder said.
Last month, the IDA asked local developers for proposals for the Main Street building. The IDA received two proposals from local developers but VanGorder did not offer specifics about those plans.
He said both plans called for mixed-use development, with retail space on the first floor and residential space on the upper floors.
VanGorder said developing the Main Street buildings is a “difficult project” because it had significant fire damage.
Andrea Stevens, of East Homer, was convicted in January 2010 of third-degree arson for setting the fire. The building had a gift shop owned by Stevens, a clothing and antiques shop, an art gallery and apartments.
Cincinnatus resident Vasilios Pothos owns the building. His son, Emmanuel, manages the building and did not return a call for comment for this story.
Vasilios Pothos was in jail for four years after pleading guilty in Cortland County Court to felony criminal sale of a controlled substance in 2007. He was paroled in July but was arrested two months later on a felony conspiracy indictment, which alleges he acted with another person and intended to commit arson, a felony, by setting fire to the vehicle.
When reached last week, Emmanuel Pothos declined to comment on his plans or the possibility of eminent domain.
The building is assessed at $88,300.
VanGorder said the building is at the center of Main Street and that it is important to get the project going.
“We both want to see it brought back online and move on,” VanGorder said.

 

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