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Elmira West Water Street redevelopment proposal to get closer look

Buildings could contain apartments, commercial, pre-school space

Jan. 26, 2012 by Ray Finger on StarGazette.com

Some cleanup is anticipated to begin Friday to determine whether the former Harold's and Marvin's buildings in downtown Elmira are sound enough to rehabilitate.

Developer Uri Kaufman of Long Island hopes to turn those two properties on West Water Street, along with the former Rosenbaum's building, into loft apartments and commercial space.

On-site pre-kindergarten and day care are possible if the community decides those are things it wants, said Dennis Hogan, who works for Kaufman and is general manager of The Harmony Group, an umbrella organization that oversees such projects in upstate New York.

"We have a template. Rehabilitating these old properties is what we do," Hogan said. "You don't see a lot of these done because of the hurdles that it takes to get through this."

Hogan told Elmira City Council Thursday about plans for the downtown buildings, and about The Lofts at Harmony Mills, a successful project in Cohoes.

That Albany-area project transformed a vacant cotton mill into loft apartments renting for $1,000 to $2,700 a month, depending on the number of bedrooms, square footage, which floor they are on and whether or not they face the Mohawk River, he said.

The rent includes telephone, Internet and cable TV service, Hogan said. "All you pay for is gas and electric."

Following Thursday's council workshop, he was to meet with Elise Johnson-Schmidt and Associates, preservation architects in Corning, to review designs created earlier for the Water Street buildings that possibly could be used, as long as they come close to fitting their template for apartments, he said. That could expedite the process threefold, he said.

"This section of Water Street has really stymied us," Mayor Susan Skidmore said. "We've had lots of starters, and that's as far as we've got, so we're really excited about this."

The goal is to preserve all three of the structures, Hogan said. Rosenbaum's has been examined and was determined to be OK, but he plans to go into Marvin's and Harold's on Friday with an engineer to look at areas they didn't have access to before to see if each building can be restored, he said.

If all of the buildings are viable, work will be done on all three at the same time, he said.

"We'll go in, we'll clean at the same time, we'll remediate at the same time. I know there are some environmental issues. We'll take care of it. It's part of the process," he said. "From there, we'll start our rehabilitation."


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