Redevelopment of Bresee's Department Store in Oneonta about half complete

By Gary Liberatore

It was back in May 2011 when Klugo Enterprises, a developer out of Corning, was chosen to take on the Bresee's project, a former department store on Main Street in Oneonta that had seen much better days.

The store closed in 1994 and went into disrepair.

The Otsego County Development Corporation entertained proposals from five developers, but Klugo was chosen because of the company's proven track record, financing and commitment to historical preservation.

Chip Klugo, who spends most of his time in Oneonta, says the project has been a whirlwind since Day One, but he is enjoying every minute of it because he says downtowns deserve to be reborn, and Oneonta's downtown already has a great base.

Klugo says by being chosen as the winning developer, his company not only had to oversee the state's funding of getting the dilapidated building up to speed, but the winning developer then had to purchase it and develop it from there.

He says as soon as he saw the building, he knew it was a great investment, not only because of its history, and what the state and Otsego County were putting into it, but because of the way the building itself was built.

"This is the strongest built building I've ever tackled," Klugo said.

Those who have lived in Oneonta for a very long time remember the good old days of downtown.

One of those is Marilyn Ball, who says a big part of the good old days was Bresee's Department Store.

"Oh when Bresee's were open, it was a heck of a downtown," she said. " And at Christmas time, they would wrap your presents. It was a magical store."

But Klugo says some of the magic may soon be back, not in the way it was with a bustling Bresee's, but with several retail shops on the first floor and upscale apartments on the upper floors.

Two retail shops have already moved into the completed retail section.

Klugo says the rest of the retail area and the 12 apartments are expected to be complete and ready to move in by next April.

"Everyday I hear another story from someone about how they grew up, what this (Bresee's) meant to them and to the community," he said.

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller says having upscale downtown living options will be great for the city.

"That's going to bring college faculty, young professionals, physicians at Fox and retirees like myself to live," Miller said. " And where people live, there's action."

Also part of this massive project was to redevelop the nearby old New York Telephone building.

Klugo says that part of the project is complete with five apartments ready to move in, two of which are already rented.

Rents in the two buildings range from $700 to $1,800 per month.

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