OSWEGO — Commuters will have to re-route themselves for a few days early next week while a building that has stood for more than a century on West First Street is demolished and turned into a parking lot.
According to Abby Weaver, Riverwalk Apartments’ director of operations, the building that formerly housed the Stoney’s Auto Parts store at 143 W. First St. will be demolished and replaced with a parking lot exclusive to Riverwalk Apartments tenants.
“Following all traffic guidelines, we will block off the sidewalk and the parking spaces just briefly in front of (143 W. First St.) while the building is coming down on the 29th or 30th to ensure the safety of the public,” Weaver said.
The 3,780-square-foot, two-story building was purchased from Alan Levine in late 2019 for $250,000 as part of the larger $12 million Riverwalk Apartments project. However, according to Weaver, the building had different plans originally.
“We initially purchased the Stoney building in hopes of having a few apartments and a commercial space in there as well,” Weaver said. She added, “however, we determined the cost of the project was too high to go forward with the renovation, so we decided to make it into a parking lot.”
The project’s anticipated cost was about $800,000, but following further review from contractors and architects leading up to construction, they reported a significantly higher total than expected.
In a letter written by Weaver addressed to the site’s surrounding businesses, obtained by The Palladium-Times on March 17, the updated renovation cost would be as high as $1.2 million. In the letter, she noted that if plans were to proceed and repair the “costly structural issues,” the space would become the “most expensive coffee shop/apartment space in Oswego.”
According to Oswego County Historian Justin White, the building has stood for 150 years and was part of Oswego’s original downtown. He said the building housed numerous downtown businesses in the auto industry throughout its lifetime, such as auto parts stores and repair shops.
Upon hearing the news of the project, White expressed frustration with the project. According to him, this is not the first time this has happened to similar historic buildings in the area.
“This is very upsetting news to potentially lose another part of the original City of Oswego downtown,” White said. “Several very similar buildings adjacent to 143 W. First were demolished to make way for St. Luke’s apartment building next door in the past.”
However, even though the building is scheduled for demolition, Weaver said that the parking lot would fill a need expressed by Riverwalk tenants and help the community in the long run.
“We know that downtown parking is a challenge for everyone, and the people living in the luxury apartments would love to have the reserved parking spaces. So this way it helps the city, downtown and the residents in the community,” Weaver said.
City officials joined Weaver in expressing their belief that this is the best use of the building. Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said on Tuesday that due to the building’s condition being “far worse than expected,” this is the best option.
“At this point, the most sensible solution is to use the location to offset parking requirements for the large mixed-use development and not take away valuable parking to other businesses, residents, or patrons,” Barlow said. “We’ll work with the property owner to make sure the site is aesthetically subtle, and I look forward to this project coming together soon.”
According to Weaver, the contractor for the demolition job — Shawn Malone of the town of Hannibal — is working with the city to ensure that the demolition goes safely and smoothly. Shawn Malone was the contractor responsible for demolishing the former Harbor Eye Associates office that used to stand where Riverwalk Apartments is now.
Currently, Riverwalk Apartments has 28 underground parking spaces, but following the completion of the lot later this year, the total amount of parking would increase to 40 spaces.
Additionally, Weaver said the plans for the coffee shop — which she refers to as “Roasted Riverwalk Coffee — have not been completely vacated but only put aside.
“I would hope to keep the idea alive and look at other local properties in the area as we move toward expanding our concept and making Roasted Riverwalk Coffee a reality in Oswego,” Weaver said.
After several months of delays due to construction issues, she anticipates Riverwalk Apartments to open May 1. She expects the parking lot to be completed in mid-May.
“Regardless of any issues that may pop up, I feel confident of opening the apartments in May,” Weaver said.