Corning has many things in great abundance, but undeveloped land is not one of them. With a mere 3.1 square miles of land to work with, how we use and re-use our existing assets becomes very important. How do we go about continually attracting new residents to our City – and enjoying the benefits those new residents can bring (from cultural diversity to increased tax revenue) – without places to put them?
Put yourself in the shoes of a young professional moving to the area for a new job. Until now your living options were pretty limited. Buying a house is a time-consuming process and out of reach for many. Townhouse apartment complexes like Emerald Springs (outside the City-proper) or Apple Creek offer solid – but uninspiring – options. Trawling Craigslist is a complete crapshoot.
True, we’ve made great strides in the Gaffer District – adding over 100 upscale upper-story apartments on Market St. But it has taken a collection of developers roughly 15 years to create those, and many are priced beyond what most can afford.
Enter Academy Place. Fifty-eight units created within the span of just about a year. Fifty-eight unique units, fairly priced (a newly-constructed, nicely-appointed 1 BR including washer/dryer, parking, Internet, cable TV, and on-site amenities for under $1000 is good value and has been difficult to find in this city). As I toured the still under-construction complex last month with architect Elise Johnson-Schmidt, she spoke excitedly about the project – and with no small measure of pride on her face.
And no small measure of work has gone into this either. The redevelopment of a historic structure and local landmark can be fraught with regulations and budget-busting cost overruns. I came away with the distinct impression that developer Mark Purcell has not only done it well, but done it “right.” Efforts have clearly been made to honor the architecture and history of Corning Free Academy. And although Purcell Construction is from outside the area, they’ve engaged locals in the know (including Johnson-Schmidt and historians Tom & Peetie Dimitroff).
And young professionals are only one segment of the potential market for Academy Place. I understand that of the units which have already been reserved, at least one will be occupied by a retired couple moving from outside the area. Evidently Corning was already on their short-list of retirement destinations – and the unique charm of the apartment they found at Academy Place tipped the scales. Another couple is apparently moving to Corning from Ithaca for the express purpose of living in Academy Place. That’s big folks. If it’s true that Academy Place is bringing people to Corning who otherwise would never have moved here, it’s already paying dividends.
The incoming residents of Academy Place will have the opportunity to form their own community, and to shape the greater community around them. They’ll help dictate the success of existing businesses – as well as influence an influx of new ones. I’m personally hoping a recent trend towards more cosmopolitan offerings (like Hand+Foot and the Iron Flamingo Brewery) will accelerate.
Even the most staunch proponents of the neighborhood schools initiative (who might have preferred CFA be kept open) can’t be too dismayed with the end result. A private-sector project that will help define our City’s public persona, and shape perceptions about who & what Corning, NY is and offers to those who might also consider moving here.
There’s nowhere else in our entire area that offers this combination of units, amenities, character, and location. Academy Place is a first, but hopefully not the last.
Some have already been leased, but you can see the individual layouts of all 58 units via interactive map on their website.
Academy Place Apartments
11 West Third Street
Corning, NY 14830