OSWEGO — The Port City’s skyline transformation has taken hold of residents’ and city leaders’ eyes in recent months as many mammoth projects are nearing completion and look to shed new light on the community and its future.
One of those projects propelling this narrative is the more than $25 million, multi-building Harbor View Square development coming to fruition in the near future, according to city and project leaders.
The development, which broke ground in recent years, has already made its mark on in the community but its next and final portion has inched closer to completion in recent months. Officials from Syracuse-based developers Housing Visions are looking to open the doors by the end of the year.
“Our goal is to have people moving in this month,” Housing Visions CEO Ben Lockwood said. “Harbor View is a collaboration with the city to develop housing right on the waterfront and turn a primarily vacant and contaminated site into a viable mix of workforce housing and a high-profile project that people will be able to see. Hopefully that entices them to keep walking into downtown.”
The regional development agency manages nearly 40 similar living complexes throughout the New York and Pennsylvania, according to the company’s website (www.housingvisions.org).
The building project located prominently along northern West First Street will add roughly 75 income-based apartments — 39 one-bedroom, 24 two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom units — to the area once completed, according to company officials.
The five-story building is outfitted with a slew of amenities for tenants including a community room, a gym, roughly 10,000 square feet of commercial space, 143 outdoor parking spaces, apartments with state-of-the-art appliances and cabinetry, and balconies, as well as spaces tailored to hearing- or vision-impaired tenants, Lockwood said.
The building’s main contractor is Rochester-based agency Spoleta Construction, which is “buttoning up” final touches on building, Lockwood said. He added that when it is completed, he is looking forward to providing the community with a modern living complex and “a great asset for the city.”
“Oswego has been a great partner for us, and we enjoy working up there,” Lockwood said.
While the main building is close to completion, the four-building complex already has hosted tenants in its three town house buildings adjacent to the main structure for more than a year, he said.
Harbor View is not the first project Housing Visions has taken on in the city, according to Lockwood. He said the company has owned and operated the 28-building Hamilton Homes complex located at 96 Hamilton St. for roughly a decade. During that time, developers have invested more than $40 million throughout the years into the complex to improve it, he said.
This project joins other developments such as the now completed Riverwalk Apartments and the LITATRO Building, as well as the upcoming East Lake Commons and Lock 7 Apartments in providing affordable or upscale living quarters to incoming or current residents.
Many of these developments were funded in part by the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). In 2016, Oswego was awarded $10 million through the DRI to invest in its downtown and augment sections of the city into centers for community and investment.
This project was allocated $750,000 of that award, Lockwood said.
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said the variety of living options available through these developments improves the Port City’s long-standing stigma of focusing on college-aged clientele over others.
“For far too long, the rental market here was geared toward college students, charging high rents for sub-par conditions. Now, thanks to these new units coming online and a tough code enforcement program, we have quality units for reasonable prices,” Barlow told The Palladium-Times Monday evening. “These units are all affordable units, which means, in summary, that people who live in Oswego can actually afford to live in them and the rents fit the median and average incomes of our population.”
Lockwood said that while Harbor View will be a great addition to the city, it has not come without its challenges. He pointed to citywide flooding issues in 2019 and pandemic-induced material shortages plaguing projects nationwide.
“Two and a half years ago the lake flooding that plagued the city slowed us down as we did some utility relocation, then COVID slowed us down. It was hard to keep crews. Then everyone loves to talk about the supply chain issues — that’s a very real thing this development has faced as well,” Lockwood said. “We are very happy to be at the end here.”
According to Barlow, the city’s downtown sector has “already seen substantial spillover investment” through these DRI-funded developments and local leaders anticipate this project — as well as this International Pier project — to replicate that investment.
“Oswego is realizing its potential by capitalizing on our location along Lake Ontario,” Barlow said. “Developing residential units along the water and installing parks, seating areas, common areas and additional public amenities makes Oswego a more desirable place to live and work for all, and the improvements we’ve done to date have been well received by the public and breathed new life into the community.”
Prior to construction, the parcel was a parking lot and garage previously owned by the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency, according to county tax records. Housing Visions acquired the parcel in late 2018 for $150,000 and started work there shortly after.
Barlow said in a statement that the units, once opened, will range from affordable prices and boast “awesome” views of the lake and city while also being a “great, affordable option for renters.”
“Great job by Housing Visions and their entire team. Hard to believe this site was a vacant parking lot four short years ago,” Barlow said in a Nov. 12 statement.
Barlow said city officials are expecting this new development to have a “big impact” on the local lakeshore community by compounding investment into a sector of the city officials have already taken a look to for advancement — the waterfront.
“The impact on the lakefront will be significant as our waterfront has been underdeveloped for so long,” Barlow said. “By placing commercial space and residential units along our waterfront, we bring more people and more activity right to our waterfront allowing for more opportunity for other sectors like dining, tourism and other recreational options.”