OSWEGO – How will downtown construction affect residents' commutes starting this spring? How much money has the Village of Oswego contributed to the Reserve at Hudson Crossing project by developer Shodeen, along with the mixed-use building by Imperial and a Mexican restaurant from the team behind Naperville-based Potter's Place?
Those were the questions that Oswego village officials were hoping to answer about the projects during the Downtown Construction Open House held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20 at East View Academy, 4209 Route 71.
Oswego Village President Gail Johnson said village officials thought it was important to give the public as many details as they can for some of the biggest projects Oswego has ever seen. She said it was particularly important to answer questions for residents with campaign season in full swing for the April 2 election.
"We wanted them to hear the truth tonight from our staff," Johnson said.
Along with Johnson, trustee candidates Dominick Cirone and incumbents Ryan Kauffman and Karin McCarthy-Lange attended the event. None of the other village board president and village board trustees were at the event.
Jenette Sturges, community engagement coordinator for the village, said the village previously hosted two similar events in February. She said those events were targeted specifically for other downtown businesses.
Sturges said the village has been trying to work with those businesses throughout the development process, since construction can be hard on existing businesses.
"So we're trying really hard to work with them to make sure ... the businesses get what they need," Sturges said.
Village officials said the main road closures will happen on Harrison, Jackson and Adams streets in the downtown near the two project sites, along with sidewalk closures on the north side of Washington Street between Harrison and Adams streets.
Village Administrator Dan Di Santo said construction for the Shodeen project will begin next month and is set to be completed by the end of 2021. He said construction will start this summer for the Mexican restaurant on Washington Street and the Imperial building on Main Street with both set to be finished by summer 2020.
Di Santo said impact fees, or fees that developers have to pay local governments for public services, were waived for the Shodeen project. The developer, however, will have to pay the Oswego School District $6,000 per child per year and the library district $120 per library card holder per year that lives at the building until the tax increment financing district expires in 2039, he said.
Di Santo said the school district was supportive of TIF district when it was initially created in 2016.
"And I did not receive negative feedback or objection from the school district during that time," Di Santo said.
Di Santo said there are no impact fees for the Mexican restaurant, since it's retail and not a residential development. He said Imperial will have an option to make two-thirds of the building entirely office space or to include some residential units.
Di Santo said Imperial initially proposed the mixed-use building to be a restaurant and retail space on the first floor, office space on the second floor and residential on the third floor when it first proposed the project a year ago. Following the project's passage during the village board meeting Tuesday, March 19, he said, the developer is anticipating the second and third floors to be all office space at this time.
"They're allowed to do either, it's just that if they do residential, they will have to pay impact fees," Di Santo said.
Lauri Doyle, vice president of the Oswego School District 308 Board of Education and Oswego resident, said she wanted to attend the event before the school board meeting later that night because she was curious about the project's scale, timeline and how either would relate to the impact of the number of students that would be added to the district. She said she personally is taking a cautious-minded approach to the projects and what effects that may be seen within the school district.
"We are watching with great interest in things that develop in the Oswego municipality," Doyle said.
Oswego resident George Foy was one of nearly 80 attendees looking to get some questions about the projects answered at the event. He said he has two children younger than 5 years old in the school system, which was a big reason why he was drawn to the area, and he said he feels there's a solid need for retail, since that revenue would definitely help the schools.
"We can gain far more from retail taxes than what ... I pay on residential taxes," Foy said.
Foy, who has lived in Oswego for 11 years, said he came to the event to see what type of revenue these developments would bring to the village and felt cautiously optimistic about what he learned. He said he knows it's kind of a catch-22, but he's still disappointed there aren't more prospective businesses lined up ahead of the developments.
"I kind of fear is that this is a 'Field of Dreams' approach – if you build it, they will come," Foy said.
Note to readers: A previous version of the story said Imperial would have the option to waive impact fees for the mixed-use building project. This version of the story further clarifies the developer would have the option to include residential space, which would require them to pay impact fees to the Village of Oswego.