Well, it’s official. Spring has sprung! Which means frosty mornings, thawing yards, pink sunrises, and muddy shoes. Oh, and the occasional snow storm. But let’s not talk about that.
As I look outside on this sunny day with an impossibly blue sky, I’m thinking about Spring in all those feel-good, I-read-this-on-a-magnet ways. Spring is new beginnings. A promise of all that is green and wonderful. It’s satisfying breezes reminding us that not only are warmer days yet to come, but that everything exists in a cycle. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Birth. Life. Death. Repeat. Right now, I can’t help but think about how Elmira fits into the cycle. I blame the blue sky.
Surely we have seen our Winter. Shops closed and businesses gone. Declining population. Vacant properties. Poverty. Crime. But now, I like to think that we are at our Spring. Budding businesses popping up downtown like little green shoots in flower beds. Think Downtown Grind and Turtle Leaf Café. New construction for the first time in decades. Look at the development at 100 West Water Street Apartments getting ready to open its doors. People moving here for opportunities like LECOM. Developers taking back long-dormant, vacant properties and turning them in to housing for all different income levels. Institutions and individuals collaboratively addressing poverty and crime. All of us working together as a community toward a better future.
As silly as it was impressive, the giant human shamrock coordinated by Elmira Downtown Development on St. Patrick’s Day was more than a new world record and fantastic PR event. It was proof–green and wonderful–of the unique spirit of this community. Our ability to come together. Bitingly cold, muddy, and with snow flurries dotting the sky, 1200 Elmirans donned thin green ponchos and formed that shamrock; hundreds more came to show their support. That’s crazy! And cool. And not something just any community would or could do. And THAT is Elmira.
I’m ready for Spring, are you?
Let’s rephrase that … I mean, who DOESN’T want to help set a world record!
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in our house, we spend a fair amount of time watching YouTube videos in which five bros utilize an exorbitant amount of money and energy breaking Guinness World Records on athletic feats. First of all, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky. Second of all, what I’m about to describe is going to be way more fun than watching videos at home. Speaking of lucky, taking part in the revelry below may also bring you good luck.*
*This is not guaranteed.
Elmira Downtown Development (EDD) is organizing–in the most amazing way–an attempt to form the World’s Largest Human Shamrock this Sunday in Eldridge Park. EDD is hoping to attract 1,000 willing participants, wearing kelly green, for a photograph in the shape of a shamrock. What better way to kick off your St. Patrick’s Day? Seriously.
Facebook event link … see you there!
I just spent entirely too long trying to come up with an interesting title for this blog post. It didn’t happen. But hopefully the information below will be helpful for you, reader friends!
We have been fortunate to receive rehabilitation funding for all five of our river crossings. One of them – the Clemens Center Parkway Bridge – is complete, and the other four projects are coming up. Below is an overview, moving from west to east. (Please note that while the dates may change, this information is current as of February 2019.)
The City will rehabilitate the Walnut Street Bridge thanks to a BRIDGE NY grant, with an estimated start date of July 2019. In early July, closures will begin, but the project will maintain two-way vehicular and pedestrian traffic until 2020 (Date TBD), when the bridge closes entirely for construction.
The City will begin rehabilitation of the Main Street Bridge in 2021. The project will repair the bridge decay and enhance public safety while preserving the structure for another 20 to 30 years.
The Lake Street Bridge, closed to all traffic in 2011 due to structural deficiencies, will be open for pedestrian and bicycle use from March—June 2019, while the Madison Avenue Bridge (below) undergoes rehabilitation. After Madison re-opens, Lake Street will undergo its own rehabilitation as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). The bridge will be a linear park connecting the City’s downtown and south side, while providing a new community gathering space and link to amenities such as Brand Park and the Lackawanna Rail Trail. State and federal programs, with cooperation from local utilities, are fully funding the project. Anticipated dates of construction are August 2019 through 2020, although some work will begin this spring. Note: the graphic above is a preliminary design concept from the public meeting and is subject to modifications during final design.
Finally, the Madison Avenue Bridge will undergo its rehab (also with BRIDGE NY funding) starting this week. On February 26, the city will close one lane of the bridge in order to add communication lines in advance of the rehabilitation. The project will maintain two-way traffic until mid-March when the bridge will close until late June. As stated above, the Lake Street Bridge will be the alternate route for pedestrians and bicyclists while Madison is fully closed to traffic.
Thank you to our pals at Chemung County Department of Public Works for this information!
Hear that call! The time has come for one and all to Play Ball!
Who doesn’t love the early 90’s movie, “A League of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis? If you haven’t watched it, run out to your nearest video store (yes, I am one of those people who still rent DVD’s) … or take the normal route and download or stream it. Without giving too much away, the movie is a depiction of the early days of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) that Philip Wrigley founded after the start of WWII as a way to keep baseball alive while the majority of men were at war.
Watching the movie for the first time as a teen, I imagined being alive during WWII, wondering whether I’d be a Rosie the Riveter type or like Rosie O’Donnell’s foul-mouthed but hilariously funny character. Turns out I am neither of those today but instead am a grantmaker (definitely not foul-mouthed).
Fast-forward to around 2008 when I begin working for the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes. One of the first grants I remember reading was for the Southport Cinderella Softball League. The applicants intended for the grant help bring back the league after a hiatus of several years. Some committed volunteers from Elmira’s Southside didn’t want to let another year pass without a league for girls who want to learn how to play one of America’s favorite games.
As I read the grant, I couldn’t help but remember the movie, so I did a quick Google search to see if any local women had played in the first female professional baseball league. Success! Clara “Babe” Cook, an Elmira (specifically, Pine City) native, played for the 1943 Rockford (IL) Peaches, one of the league’s premiere teams. This was incredibly fascinating news!
Here’s what I learned: Clara took an early interest in the game and played sandlot ball with her brother and some friends. An employee from the old Remington Rand spotted Clara and urged her parents to let her play ball. After graduating from Southside High School, Clara worked for the Rand and organized a team for the company. It was at that time she was spotted by a AAGPBL scout who invited her to join the league.
One of the original sixty founding members, Clara “Babe” Cook was a lefty pitcher with a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings of work (1944). She played for the Kenosha Comets, Rockford Peaches and the Milwaukee Chicks from 1943 to 1944. While playing for the Milwaukee Chicks (below), Clara and her team mates won the 1944 league championship.
After playing for two years, Clara returned to Elmira and to her job at the Remington Rand. Ten years later, she moved to California, where she worked for an aircraft corporation. Elmira called her back home for retirement, where her passion and love for baseball continued. In Southport, she coached and mentored young women interested in baseball. In 1975, Clara was inducted into the Metro-Elmira Sports Hall of Fame (link to Chemung County Sports Hall of Fame). In 1988, she was part of the unveiling of the permanent display, Women in Baseball, at the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown, NY.
When I watch the movie now, I have a real sense of pride knowing that one of our own played in the league. One of our own helped to keep baseball relevant and alive for people and families who love the sport during some very dark days. One of our own worked to inspire so many other young girls who played in sandlots on long summer days. I do wonder from time to time about whether Clara was like one of the characters from the movie. (Geena Davis’s character “Dottie” was one of my favorites.) But then I think she was just a girl from Elmira who loved baseball and that is good enough for me.
If you are curious about the opportunities for new housing, this update is for you. For the first time in years, we are witnessing construction around the city … and it is heartening to watch buildings rise from the ground or come back to life in a variety of neighborhoods. (Please note that this information is current at the time of blog posting and is subject to change).
100 West Water
Market-Rate mixed-use development downtown with Chemung River views
Rochester-based Park Grove Realty is the developer behind the 100 West Water Apartments, which will feature 51 market-rate apartments on three stories above ground-floor office and retail. This project is downtown Elmira’s first new construction in decades and will open March 2019. The ground floor will be home to engineering and design firm Labella PC and other businesses to be determined. For more information, click here for the 100 West Water website. The building is adjacent to the Promenade on Water Street between Railroad Avenue and Main Street.
The river views from the upper story apartments are spectacular. (courtesy
City of Elmira Code Enforcement on Facebook).
Affordable housing with support services within walking distance of downtown
Vecino Group is the developer transforming the former Jones Court complex into Libertad, which will have 91 affordable rental units (including 20 reserved for homeless veterans) and support services. The project is located adjacent to EOP and Ernie Davis Park, on Baldwin and Dickinson Streets. The target date for completion is April 2019. Potential tenants may contact EOP at www.cseop.org or 607.734.6174.
New and renovated housing units in a walkable neighborhood on South Main Street
As stated on the developer’s website, Chemung Crossing is one of the first of its kind in the area, a $15.1 million mixed-use project on South Main Street across from Aldi and adjacent to Gerould’s Pharmacy and Teall’s Tavern. This project includes six new multi-family homes on Henry and Harmon Streets and the rehabilitation of two historic buildings, totaling 45 affordable housing units and 2,482 SF of commercial space. The housing will be income-based and targeted for individuals and families earning from $13,520-$22,400. Housing Visions is accepting residential applications now (315.472.3820 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and expects to complete the project in March 2019.
Maple Avenue Apartments
New Housing Community to open for seniors in early 2019
CDS is constructing a new senior apartment complex on Maple Avenue in Elmira, with one-bedroom apartments, a fitness complex, laundry rooms, computer stations and other amenities. AIM Independent Living Center is accepting applications for the apartments with availability at the time of this post. The organization will provide ongoing support services for residents in partnership with NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. The CDS Facebook page featuring renderings of the units is here.
Other recent and future housing includes several developments by Capriotti Properties, including the Richardson Row Homes and the Foster House, both on West Water Street, and the Historic Werdenberg Apartments on the corner of West Water and Main Street. Capriotti Properties will also be revitalizing the Arnot Carriage House thanks in part to a New York Main Street awarded December 2018.