August 12, 2009


Clock tower building nears completion

Open house for the $3.7 million project that replaces Squires Building scheduled for Aug. 26

Clock TowerBob Ellis/staff photographer
Clock tower building owner John Scanlon looks out of the three-bedroom, third-floor apartment with its wraparound windows.

Contributing writer

It is a view no one in Cortland has had for more than three years: the facades and rooflines of Main Street set against the green pastures of the surrounding hills, seen from the third-floor living room of a clock tower apartment.
Despite its position over one of Cortland’s busiest intersections, the third-floor corner apartment in the new clock tower building is oddly quiet, in large part due to the thick, double-paned windows.
Only a slight murmur of traffic sounds from the intersection of Main and Tompkins streets below.
The clock tower building’s 16 apartments are about 98 percent complete, building owner John Scanlon said. They await a final coat of paint and some other minor detail work before college-student residents arrive in two weeks.
The apartments are rented, including the two three-bedroom and two-bathroom “premier” apartments located on the corners of the second and third floors.
Scanlon said he plans to hold an open house Aug. 26, eight months to the day after the construction team broke ground on the building in January.
The new, 21,000-square-foot clock tower building replaces the Squires Building, a Cortland landmark destroyed by fire April 11, 2006, which housed the Clock Tower Apartments.
The clock tower open house will be 4 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 26.
Scanlon said the project has managed to avoid major setbacks in time or expense.
“Everything went very smoothly, with construction and weather,” he said. “Days can turn into weeks very easily as far as delays with construction go, and we knew we had to hit the mark with the students coming back.”
While the apartments are just about ready for tenants, the ground floor is still unfinished as Scanlon looks for businesses to use the retail space.
There’s room for subdivision into as many as five rental units, but Scanlon said he hopes to find tenants who want to use larger amounts of the roughly 6,000-square-foot ground floor.
He declined to give names for specific businesses that have expressed interest, but he said three of four possible tenants have been restaurants.
Finding definite commercial tenants will be more of a priority now that construction is largely completed.
To date, none of the ground floor space has been rented.
“It’ll be our full focus for the next two to three months here,” Scanlon said.
The south side of the building faces what will eventually be a parking lot enclosed with brick pillars and wrought-iron fencing, with a wide red brick patio in between. Scanlon said the spaces adjacent to the Stone Lounge will be reserved for apartment tenants, while the spaces near the building will be used for business customers. Gooseneck sconces line the exterior over the first floor, and will eventually provide lighting for business signs.
Scanlon said the project has stayed close to the original estimate of $3.7 million, $2 million of which came from a New York State Restore grant.
“It’s certainly fair to say that without the grant, you wouldn’t be looking at something like this,” Scanlon said.
The design is modern, but echoes the look of the Squires Building in several key respects — including the distinctive clock face that tops off the structure.
But much has changed since the destruction of the Squires Building clock structure, which required weekly winding by Bud Ames, the city’s official clock winder for some 30 years.
The new clock runs on five watts of electricity and a circuit board about the size of a standard envelope.
The tower itself was one of the most contentious elements of the building’s design, Scanlon said.
One draft simply had the clock dial placed on the side of the building, but Scanlon said the tower was “nonnegotiable.” Another design posited a round tower, but this doubled the structure’s cost. In the end, designers settled on the square tower, with the dog-eared roof, as being a balance between modern style and one more reminiscent of the original 1880s design.
“The whole project has been a lot more stressful than I had initially thought it would be,” Scanlon said. “There are thousands of decisions to be made. So at this point, it’s definitely a relief that that’s all done.”
One decision that has yet to be made is what to do with the small area in front of the building, which workers did not pave over at Scanlon’s request. He said he has a couple ideas for it. One is to turn it into a landscaped area, and another is to embed the old clock face into a permanent memorial to the Squires Building.
Scanlon said he’s open to suggestions for the area.
Standing on the roof of the building, watching painters touch up the trim along the clock tower’s doors, he said he’s happy with the results so far.
“Overall, I’m very pleased,” he said.


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