CAZENOVIA — On Oct. 11, from 12 to 2 p.m., the Cazenovia Area Community Development Association (CACDA) and the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation (CPF) co-hosted the first of two public information/input sessions focused on the repurposing of the Cazenovia College campus.
Held at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Cazenovia, the meeting gave community members the chance to hear from representatives of six working groups that have been developing different ideas for the future use of the campus. All the groups are largely comprised of members of the local community.
A representative of the New York State Police, which is leasing a large portion of the campus for two years for use as the NYS Police Basic School Auxiliary Academy, and a representative of A&G Real Estate Partners, the firm hired to facilitate the sale of the campus properties, were also in attendance to give short presentations and answer questions.
During her opening remarks, CPF Executive Director Jen Wong emphasized that, at this point, none of the repurposing concepts is preferred over any other by CACDA, the village, or any other local entity.
“These are ideas that are being explored because a member of the community or someone with knowledge of Cazenovia recognized a need or saw an opportunity,” Wong said.
She also stated that some of the parties that have expressed interest in purchasing the college real estate may not have a need for the entire campus, so it is possible that multiple uses could coexist.
“For this reason, we want to continue to explore the feasibility of and the community’s alignment with the concepts that are being presented today as we move into the next phase of planning,” Wong said.
Prior to the working group presentations, David Bergh, president of “The Office of the Institution Formerly Known as Cazenovia College,” spoke briefly about the college’s current role as a facilitator.
Bergh, who is the sole remaining employee of the college, explained that although the institution is the seller in any transaction involving the campus real estate, any arrangement that is ultimately agreed upon will require the approval of the bondholders, who hold the campus as collateral.
“I see my primary role, as it relates to the real estate part of this, [as being] an advocate and communicator of community needs and desires in this process as we talk with potential purchasers,” Bergh said.
He added that he aims to help anyone who is interested in the campus learn more about it and gain a good sense of what the community is looking to see.
He concluded his remarks by stating that being able to work out a short-term lease with the state police was “fortuitous and a wonderful thing.”
“It gives time for this process to play out and also, in the meantime, just some immediate mitigation of the economic impact of not having the college here,” he said. “It’s a good, positive use of the campus, which is being well-maintained and utilized in the interim. The state police have been wonderful partners to work with so far.”
Working group presentations
Kelli Johnson, a long-time teacher, presented her group’s vision for addressing the systemic problem of low literacy and illiteracy by reinventing the campus or parts of the campus as an academy for students with language-based learning differences and as a lab school for teacher preparation programs.
Kate Brodock, who has over 15 years of experience in the tech startup space, outlined a plan to repurpose the campus as an agriculture technology innovation hub with the goals of improving the economic position of small farms and farmers, creating a “NextGen” community food system, and developing a regional model that can be implemented in any farming community. The group proposes focusing on agriculture technology as a starting point for the growth of a broader startup and innovation ecosystem built around data, technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) and supported by local business and community activities.
Jeremy Rutter, president and CEO of Community Wellness Partners, proposed dedicating part of the campus to a senior independent living campus similar to New Hartford’s Preswick Glen, and a memory care residence. Community Wellness Partners is a faith-based, non-profit healthcare and senior living provider with multiple campuses in New Hartford, Clinton, and Oswego.
Yuri Omelchenko, who is an economist by training, advocated for utilizing Cazenovia’s unique advantages and existing campus facilities to create an innovative, world-class liberal arts institution with strengths in entrepreneurship, data science, and AI using partnerships with top institutions and philanthropic foundations.
Anne Ferguson, president of Cazenovia Heritage, highlighted the need to train people in the skills required to support the restoration and preservation of historic architecture and cultural resources. Her group is proposing the use of a minimum of 4,100 to 6,000 square feet of the campus as a center for preservation trades by affiliating with a public or private organization that is already established in the fields of historic preservation, history, or the preservation trades. The group’s “shared use campus” concept involves using the remaining campus assets for retail, commercial, town and village government, public, private, and educational purposes.
Speaking on behalf of Stone Quarry Hill Art Park (SQAP) CEO Emily Zaengle, Johnson and Joan Brooks presented the concept of utilizing the campus to help center the arts within the community. The group envisions either transforming the campus into a center for the arts or finding ways to integrate the arts into other complementary uses of the campus. The group has begun researching the potential suitability of Artspace, a nonprofit arts organization that specializes in creating, owning, and operating affordable spaces for artists and creative businesses. Artspace offers consulting services, property development, and asset management.
Jeremy Garelick, who was unable to attend the session, has been working to develop a vision for “The Academy at American High” film school.
To learn more about any of the proposed campus repurposing concepts, email CACDA Executive Director Lauren Lines at [email protected].
Following the working group presentations, Lines discussed the next steps in the Repurposing Cazenovia College Campus Community Planning Process.
She reported that CACDA secured an Empire State Development grant and a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to develop a strategic plan for the campus.
“That’s the process we are just beginning to embark on now,” Lines said. “We are seeking a consultant to lead that effort, but we are also trying to be cautious and hope for some clarity on the ultimate purchase of the campus so that we don’t get too far down one path only to find out that our planning should have taken another direction. So, we are starting with some things that we think could be beneficial regardless of the future use of the campus.”
Some of the early work will include a parking study, a housing study, and some additional exploration into the feasibility of some of the arts-related uses of the campus.
“Once we have that better clarity on who is going to own the campus, who is going to develop it, then we can proceed with some real master planning,” said Lines. “It is becoming clear that ultimately it will probably be several uses, and the master planning process will help us understand how those uses can be compatible and compatible with village life as well.”
A&G Real Estate Partners
During his remarks, Christian Koulichkov, managing director of real estate sales for A&G Real Estate Partners, reported that the Cazenovia College Equestrian Campus, which consists of the equine education center and adjacent land, is no longer being marketed separately from the main campus.
Koulichkov explained that A&G sought bids for the equestrian campus back in June, but then learned that some of the potential buyers of the main campus also wanted the equestrian campus to be “part of the equation.”
“As we worked with them, we thought it was worth more to keep it as a whole, so that’s kind of the way we’ve operated so far,” he said. “It may at some point be carved off, but we’re just not there yet. The goal is to keep it as one entity.”
Koulichkov also said A&G is working to evaluate whether it is worth it to also lump the Jephson Campus (South Campus), the Catherine Cummings Theatre, and the athletic center in with the main campus.
“The way we run the process, it’s easy for us to pivot to individual asset sales if that’s the best recovery,” he said. “We could have sold those a bunch of times, but I think it’s worth more to the community and to the stakeholders to keep it together until such time that it is really necessary to separate them,” he said.
New York State Police
Steven Graap, a major at the New York State Police, provided an overview of the history of the state police and an update on its presence in Cazenovia.
Graap, who is overseeing the NYS Police Basic School Auxiliary Academy, announced that the community should expect to see a difference in the village starting on Sunday, Oct. 15, when the 60 staff members already on campus would be joined by 295 recruits.
The recruits, which begin training Oct. 16, are from all over the state with 17 percent coming from New York City.
In addition to its 60 instructors, the academy will also be bringing in around 40 outside instructors from across the state to teach various proficiencies, including radar and breathalyzer training and accident reconstruction.
“It used to be all classroom and physical fitness, that’s it,” said Graap. “Now we do what’s called ‘reality-based training.’ They found that working through these scenarios, [like] handling domestics, making car stops, [is] when you’re really learning.”
According to Graap, a few recruits will be going out at times in a marked car with an instructor to practice traffic stops on roads outside of the village.
The trainees will be doing a lot of work in the parking lots at the athletic center and running some scenarios on Liberty Street.
“We won’t get into the village and impede anything you have going on there,” he said. “There will be some outside training. There will be some marching, you’ll see some running. Every morning, you’re going to see 260 people getting walked up [Liberty Street] at 5 a.m. to the gym for [physical training]. I’ll make sure they are quiet, and they will be.”
All firearms training will be done in Albany, but the recruits will learn the nomenclature of the weapons and basic safety while on campus.
According to Graap, they will complete almost 1,200 hours of training over 28 weeks. Curriculum topics range from penal law and criminal procedure law to cultural diversity/sensitivity training and mental health.
Each week, the trainees will arrive on Sunday starting at 4 p.m., stay in the dorms throughout the week, and return to their homes on Friday typically around 5 p.m. but sometime later. None of the trainees will remain on campus over the weekends.
Graap said he already spoke with Cazenovia Chief of Police Michael Hayes about Friday night traffic, and he plans to work to find solutions if there are any issues.
“Your concerns are our concerns too,” he said. “We will work that out. If we have to stagger times, we will do what we have to do.”
Graap also said the academy has sufficient parking, will not overflow its parking, and will adhere to all parking rules. He added that he expects the class to lose anywhere from 15 to 30 trainees in the first two weeks.
While they are in town and not training, the recruits will not be leaving campus. The instructors, however, will be going out into the community and frequenting local businesses.
The public will be restricted from walking through the campus during the week, as well as on weekends when the facilities could potentially be used by the state police for some other purposes.
According to Graap, people from around the state have already expressed interest in using the campus facilities for various purposes such as drone training, computer training, or canine training.
The public will also be restricted from using the athletic center.
The pool has been drained due to liability reasons and maintenance costs, but the academy will be using the turf field, the workout rooms, and the indoor courts daily.
Graap assured the community that the state police are being good stewards of the campus and they will continue to maintain everything from the boilers and air conditioning systems to the buildings, the contents of the rooms, and the grounds.
“We are blessed to be taking over the 200 years of academic training in your community,” he said. “I know there’s probably apprehension and concerns; I would [have them] too. I know it’s a beautiful facility. I know this is something that’s different. . . . I can assure you on our part we are going to do the best we can. I’m open and available. [It’s my job to ensure] the safety and security of everybody on that campus. I’ve got to make sure they are trained well and that they have their physical fitness, but I’ve also got to make sure the community is happy with what we do. We do serve you. We’re together in this.”
Each of the presentations was followed by a brief question and answer period, and at the end of the meeting, attendees were invited to visit with the presenters at different tables to offer feedback, ask additional questions, and engage in more in-depth discussions. Comment forms were also provided for the public to provide additional input.
A second public meeting, featuring the same presentations, was held later that day in the same location.