May 24, 2016


McNeil campus project coming together

VetImage provided by city Zoning Officer Bob Rhea
This rendering done by LaBella Associates shows Main Street properties as they would appear after renovations planned for a McNeil and Co. project.

Staff Reporter

Plans by a local company to build a $7.2 million campus in the heart of Historic Downtown Cortland are beginning to come together, following site plan approval Monday night by the city Planning Commission.
Company stakeholder David McNeil and Ed Flynn, planning director for Ithaca-based engineering firm LaBella Associates, asked the commission to approve site plans for the expansion project.
The commission voted 4-1 to approve the project. Commissioner Rafael Felix felt accurate information on the project was not present in a timely manner and voted against the motion. Commissioner Joe McMahon was absent.
In December, McNeil and Co. Inc. received $1.1 million in funding through the latest round of the state’s annual Regional Economic Development Council awards to renovate properties it owns on Main Street, Central Avenue and Church Street.
The approximately $7.2 million project is aimed at expanding the company’s facilities to accommodate growth for the insurance and development companies while retaining a minimum of 100 jobs in the city.
As indicated in the site plan submitted to the commissioners, the proposed campus will affect seven buildings owned by McNeil and Co. Inc. City Zoning Officer Bob Rhea explained Monday the project will largely consist of renovating space in the buildings.
During the meeting, McNeil said there are two properties the company owns at 11-15 Main St. and 17-29 Main St. that will require facade work to match other buildings already located in the city’s historic district. Those changes required the commission’s approval.
“We wanted to maintain the individuality of the buildings, yet there’s some similar tendencies throughout,” McNeil said. “What we didn’t want to have is this mall-type look.”
The project will involve renovating existing spaces into office space, conference rooms and a training center. Plans also will include a new kitchen/cafeteria space and a day care center for children of employees.
The board was also asked to act as lead agency for the state environmental quality review, SEQR, process needed to advance the project.
Planning Commission Chair Jeff Gebhardt explained during the meeting the SEQR was required as a prerequisite to receive the state funding. The commission spent about 15 minutes reviewing the plans and determined the project would not have a significant impact on the environment.
Ultimately, the Planning Commission voted to approve the site plan contingent on approval by the city’s Historic Review Board, the board which oversees the types of facade work McNeil and Co. Inc. is looking to do.
Even with site plan approval, it will be a bit longer before work begins.
In addition to needing approval from the Historic Review Board, plans the company has to renovate property at 16 Church St. into a day care facility still need to be approved by both the city and the county.
Meanwhile, the facade work on Main Street is expected to be reviewed at the Historic Review Board’s next meeting, set for 8 a.m. June 14.

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