OSWEGO, NY – The grassroots group Save Oswego’s Historic Sites returned to the council chambers recently to continue the fight to save the former Cahill building.
“Now that the property is again available for bids from potential developers, we reiterate our position to the mayor and council to move with caution on this property,” said Mercedes Niess. “In fact it might be best to have a moratorium before offering this property up for bid until careful consideration and research can be done as to the best options to go about securing a new developer with the credentials to be successful in the rehabilitation of the structure.”
The group would like to see a clause in the agreement with any new developer stating the building must be preserved and not demolished, she added.
“We respectfully request that select members of our group be considered to serve on a committee for selection and due process for a future developer and or assist in drafting an RFP (request for proposals), which includes language that requires future developers to rehabilitate the building,” she said.
The fact that the site is listed on the national registry of historic places will make it possible for grant money toward its restoration, she said.
She then presented the council with hundreds more signatures on the petition from “people who want to urge the council to do whatever you can to care for that building.”
Anne Pagano, of Oswego, had wanted to speak at the council meeting as well but was out of town. She sent her comments in a letter.
She said she had attended the summary judgment hearing on the Cahill building last month.
Pagano wrote that she expected the proceedings to be “dry and technical, much of it incomprehensible to someone without a legal background.”
“However, when the lawyer speaking for the city began his presentation before the judge with the words. ‘Preserving the building…,’ I realized this might not be the case,” she said.
The attorney “unequivocally endorsed” the Cahill building’s preservation and rehabilitation. He noted the city’s concern that, once the building was sold, the city would have no leverage to ensure that the structure would not be preserved and redeveloped responsibly and might even be demolished.
“At one point (the lawyer) said, ‘it is not about the money, it is about preserving the building,’” Pagano said.
The judge’s response was “troubling,” she said.
“The judge repeatedly shook his head and stated that the city’s concerns – commitments to preservation and renewal and to providing proof of sufficient available financing – were not addressed in the purchase contract. The judge saw the agreement instead as a simple $200,000 contract,” she said.
“After both parties had addressed the judge, it seemed that both sides had fallen short; the proposed purchasers failed to show the continued commitment of all the initial investors; the city failed to have the contract it signed reflect its expectations and goals,” she continued. “Now that the lawsuit has been dismissed, the city has an opportunity to rethink and re-do its award process for the Cahill building. I ask that this time, the city ensures that its new contract unambiguously spells out all the provisions necessary to fulfill its intentions as presented that morning in court to preserve, rehabilitate and responsibly develop this historic building.”
The mayor said the city would take the group’s suggestions into consideration regarding the future of the Port City landmark.