November 2, 2013


Downtown developer conducting online survey

Newberry building owner gauging interest for tenants on upper floors

Staff Reporter

Developer Mark Zaharis, owner of the J.J. Newberry building at 43-49 Main St. in downtown Cortland, is conducting a survey to find out what will draw people to his apartments once he is finished with his restoration project.
Zaharis said he hired Stuben County-based architects Johnson-Schmidt & Associates to conduct an online survey to gauge what would interest potential tenants before finalizing plans for his $1.5 to $2 million renovation and restoration project.
The survey asks participants to give their age, gender, marital status and approximate annual income, and asks questions such as what are they willing to pay, what type of space they are looking for, how they feel about pets in the building and how soon they would like to move with the option of providing contact information so they can be notified of the project’s completion.
Zaharis said it has been a while since he has done this, but he did not want to take any chances making such a large investment in something people would not be interested in.
“I did a survey for a project back in the ’80s and not since,” Zaharis said. “I felt that the size of this project warranted direct input from interested parties.”
“The survey process starts once a building owner is ready to start architectural design for the building,” Development Coordinator Emily Cowan said, “and will continue until either we have gotten good feedback and/or the building owner and architect are ready to design floor plans.”
She added her firm specializes in preserving historic buildings and has worked with developers across the state and the survey is useful for more than just locating potential tenants.
“There are many benefits to the survey,” Cowan said, “including viable apartment spaces that reduce vacancy on Main Street. Downtowns can flourish rather than sit empty, and renters can live in beautiful apartments that have the space or design that fits their needs.”
The Newberry building, which houses the Wild Ginger Asian Fusion restaurant, and the property next door at 51-55 Main St., which was heavily damaged by fire in 2006 will see the second and third floor spaces of both buildings turned into a total of 12 apartments while effort will be put into renewing the historic architectural details of the property’s facade.
Johnson-Schmidt is also helping with applications for historic tax credits; funding from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that could reduce rehabilitation costs by 20 percent, and collaborating with the project’s lead architect, Claudia Brenner, to create guidelines on how to preserve the buildings’ historical integrity, Zaharis said.
The project is among the first to take advantage of the tax abatement program the Common Council approved in May designed to encourage building owners to renovate apartments downtown with the hopes of bringing more businesses and permanent residents to Cortland by giving developers a 12-year period in which they pay no taxes on improvements before full taxation is phased in over an eight-year period.
Zaharis said Cowan is going to be conducting the survey and has already started contacting people as he prepares to move forward and said so far, everything is going well.
“We are almost finished with the plans,” Zaharis said. “After the survey is finished we will do our final tweaking and put the project out to bid. If all goes well, I hope to start at the beginning of the new year.”


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