May 16, 2012


Blighted building work to begin

New windows, facade repairs expected on long vacant property

BuildingBob Ellis/staff photographer
The building at 51-55 Main St. in downtown Cortland has sat empty since a 2005 fire destroyed two businesses, Smooch and Shangri-La, and the Pinstripes and Polkadots art gallery on the second floor. Its owner is planning on fixing the exterior in coming weeks.

Staff Reporter

A decaying Main Street building vacant since it burned in 2005 is expected to undergo exterior renovations in the next week.
The first step will be to replace the windows, said Emmanuel Pothos, who manages the building at 51-53 and 55 Main St.
A fire in October 2005 gutted the inside of the building at the corner of Main and Court streets.
“We’re going to get the windows replaced, the goal is to remove all the plywood,” he said Tuesday.
Pothos said in April that he plans on leasing the lower floor for commercial space while the upper floors will be apartments.
Some masonry work on the facade will be done as well, Pothos said.
There is interest in the building and it will become a viable property, he said.
The building has remained vacant for nearly seven years.
“It is available for lease and we’ll build to suit,” he said. “There has been some interest already, but no firm commitments.”
The building is owned by Pothos’ parents, Vasilios and Irene Pothos. The two buildings have a combined assessed value of $89,192.
Andrea Stevens was convicted in January 2010 of third-degree arson, a felony, for setting the fire at the building. The fire destroyed Stevens’ beauty and gift store, Smooch, and antiques seller Shangri-La on the first floor, a second-floor art gallery and third-floor apartments.
Stevens’ second appeal on her arson conviction was denied Thursday.
Since the fire, the building’s windows have been boarded up and large white “Xs” indicating to firefighters that no one is in the building and a wooden bar has restricted access across one of the building’s main entrances.
In the past few months, local officials began to discuss the possibility of seizing the building through eminent domain.
Instead, the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency decided to work with Pothos to repair the building and find new tenants.
The agreed upon date for beginning work is June 1.
Garry VanGorder, executive director of the agency, said Monday he believed Pothos was making the effort to live up to the agreement.
“I have faith in him that he’ll do what he needs to do with the building,” VanGorder said.
A June 1 deadline is meant to give Pothos time to complete the work before the New York Jets training camp begins in late July.


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