June 20, 2012


Firm picked to design city gateway

Improvements intended to attract more traffic downtown will depend on grant funding

Staff Reporter

A Syracuse-based engineering firm will design a more attractive gateway to downtown Cortland.
On Tuesday, the city Common Council approved a $30,000 contract with the firm, C&S Companies.
The company said it would work with the public to create a more attractive entrance into downtown Cortland from Interstate 81’s Exit 11.
“What I’d really like to have is a gateway design that the community is really proud of,” said Mike Gridley, a landscape architect for the firm. “We want to work with the community.”
Gridley said the gateway will help guide residents to downtown Cortland.
Gridley said the project could likely include lighting, landscaping, pavement markings and public art displays, but added that the final design will ultimately be guided by community input.
He said the goal is to create a “sense of place” for residents, pedestrians, bicyclists and travelers.
In March, the city received 11 packets from firms interested in doing the work. The Syracuse firm was picked this month after interviews with four finalists in April. A group of city officials interviewed the final firms.
Richard Cunningham, program manager for Cortland-based Thoma Development Consultants, said last month that C&S had “a wealth of well-rounded qualifications,” including managers with expertise in landscape architecture, engineering, transportation and traffic analysis and public outreach.
Thoma Development prepared the requests for qualifications for the project.
City officials say they want to get more travelers as they drive by Cortland. More than 17,000 vehicles travel on Clinton Avenue near the Riverside Plaza every day, according to the state Department of Transportation. But just under 6,500 vehicles travel on Main Street between the Groton Avenue and Port Watson Street intersections.
The firm will work with city officials and the general public to design a better entryway into downtown from the interstate. The goal for the project is to refurbish the area near Pomeroy Street and Clinton Avenue to let people know how to get downtown.
A steering committee of city officials, businesses and residents interviewed the four firms and will help guide the design process with C&S. The public will also give input during meetings this summer.
Alderman Katy Silliman (D-2nd Ward) asked the representatives from the firm if they planned to seek input from residents living near the project. She said they would need “buy-in” from people on Clinton Avenue for the project.
Gridley said the community workshops will begin this summer and that the firm would seek input from residents living on Clinton Avenue.
The development of the actual gateway will ultimately hinge on funding. The city would likely do the gateway project in phases as it receives grants, but no target price for the project has been set.
Gridley said the completed design will give the city leverage as it looks for grant funding for the project.
He expected to have the final design completed by the fall.
In other news, the city will apply for a $250,000 state grant to help rehabilitate upperfloor units on Main Street, said Linda Armstrong, program manager for Thoma Development Consultants.
The grant application is still being finalized, but Armstrong said it would focus on the rehabilitation of buildings on Main Street, particularly between West Court Street and Central Avenue. She said the money could potentially go to rehabilitating facades and upper floor apartments.
The council approved the grant application 8-0. It should hear back on approval of the application later this year.


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