Turn back the hands of time!
Take us back to those halcyon days when the streets of Oneonta bustled with shoppers, and a ride on Bresee’s escalator meant that you were in the “city.”
When Thursday night was the best of Friday and Saturday rolled into one.
Where is the DeLorean, the magic phonebooth and the hot tub?
Is there no time machine?
I would suggest that there is, and that together we can bring back the best of those memories, even as we make new ones.
For the past several months, the mayor’s office, government leaders, businesses and organizations, and creative spirits in the community have been working on a strategy to make our City of the Hills the vibrant, vital destination it once was.
We are calling the effort the Downtown Renaissance Program.
Will we have a department store, or men’s wear, shoe stores and five-and-dimes lining our Main Street as they did 60 years ago, you ask? No. Not likely.
In the 1950s and ’60s Southside was a winding road, not a commercial strip, home to box stores and fast-food restaurants. In 2024, we will make our way back to the future by embracing the present reality.
Rather than lamenting the exodus of large-volume retail, it’s our intention to capitalize on Southside traffic to capture those for whom a trip to Oneonta holds more interest than just a restocking of staples.
We will create a compelling “must see” destination of our downtown. A Main Street experience not to be missed, where no matter the day, no matter the time, a visitor will be engaged, surprised and entertained.
Oneonta is blessed with a population teeming with creativity. And it’s those talented neighbors who will take us into a new and exciting future, where downtown becomes the place — the destination — for a unique and memorable experience.
Our Renaissance program will turn underutilized opportunities like lower Dietz Street and the alleys off Dietz into pedestrian-friendly bazaars, with vendors, artisans, crafts, pop-up galleries, entertainment, food trucks and farmers markets.
We’ll double down on last summer’s experiential success of Muller Plaza, with more spontaneous entertainments, and the addition of a new, jewel-box stage, named for that legend of jazz and beloved Oneonta icon, Al Galladoro.
Art and performance will explode from every empty window, every vacant store front, wall and street corner.
In homage to our history, Thursday nights will again be the late-night shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunity of years ago, but with more, including “City Lights Cinema” and performances in the plaza.
Downtown Oneonta will be “Better Late than Ever!”
The creative talents of our school district and college students and faculty, CANO — our arts organization, the Foothills, the artists of the Dietz Lofts, dance troupes, artisans and artists, performers of every description … they are our neighbors, and they will be the heart and soul of Oneonta’s renaissance.
With each new or returning visitor, our streets and sidewalks will become more lively, more energized, and the locally owned niche and specialty businesses that already provide Downtown with a unique and inviting esthetic will thrive as they haven’t in years. Entrepreneurs will see the potential of empty storefronts, and in short order they’ll be empty no more.
With every new addition the vitality of Oneonta will increase exponentially.
This is the Downtown Renaissance.
If you want to be a part of it, I invite you to reach out to me. Mayor@Oneonta.ny.us.
This is our opportunity to recapture the best of our past and set Oneonta on a path to a future that will be joy for generations to come.
Turn back the hands of time!