Two new student apartment complexes, set to open this summer in Downtown Binghamton, could bring economic growth to the city.
Twin River Commons and 20 Hawley are two separate apartment complexes owned by different groups, and are estimated to bring about 700 new students Downtown.
Twin River Commons is being developed by Newman Development Group, LLC, which also developed University Plaza.
Jeff Smetana, vice president of Newman Development Group, LLC, explained why the group decided to develop Twin River Commons.
The group decided that Downtown life would appeal to students and “address the pressure building with expanding student housing in traditional residential neighborhoods, boost activity for Downtown business and generally help revitalize the city,” Smetana said.
20 Hawley is owned by Alfred Weissman Real Estate LLC, a real estate development group headquartered in Rye, N.Y. The company specializes in repurposing and developing older buildings
The development of 20 Hawley is being overseen by Alfred Weissman himself, along with his son Alan Weissman. This is the first time Alfred Weissman Real Estate LLC has repurposed a building into student housing.
“What we saw here in Binghamton was a structure that was beyond its useful life as an office building,” Alan Weissman said. “But there is a need for high-end student housing.”
The Weissmans have experience in repurposing and developing buildings in locations in economically suffering areas, such as Yonkers and Garden City.
“We feel that this town has great potential, and that’s where we see opportunity to find something and to help reposition and change things,” Alan Weissman said.
Alan Weissman believes that both 20 Hawley and Twin River Commons will change the face of Downtown Binghamton for the better. New businesses, such as brewery pubs and restaurants, are already opening in the area.
His father expressed similar sentiments about the Downtown area.
“Things are going to get better, “ Alfred Weissman said.
Alfred Weissman also believes that the complexes are already boosting the local economy.
“We buy paint, we buy sandwiches, we buy sheet rock, we buy nails, we buy chairs, we buy garbage cans,” Alfred Weissman said. “That’s a shot in the arm for a lot of people.”
People, such as Clifford Kern, a member of the Downtown development commission, who have been paying attention to Downtown Binghamton’s issues over the years also think things will change soon.
“I think that all this new housing of students Downtown is a very positive development for Binghamton,” said Kern, who is also an economics professor at Binghamton University.
According to Kern, there have been efforts since the 1970s to revitalize Binghamton’s Downtown area, such as the construction of the metro center.
“As you can see, the success has been limited,” Kern said.
Mayor Matt Ryan shared Kern’s optimism for Binghamton’s revitalization.
“These student housing projects promise to bring even more positive activity to Downtown Binghamton,” Ryan said.
Ryan made reference to the increase in loft-style living in the Downtown area in recent years and the growth of Downtown businesses.
“We’re especially pleased that these two projects are transforming vacant sites into true community assets,” Ryan said.
Michelle Bleichert, owner of the Water Street Brewing Co., one of the businesses that just moved into the area, said she believes that the incoming student population will bring economic growth.
“When you bring bodies into an area it’s going to create some sort of change down here,” Bleichert said. “They’re going to want to shop and eat within walking distance.”
Kathryn Gallardo, a junior majoring in human development, will be living in Twin River Commons this fall and believes it will help the Downtown economy.
“I think once they are done being built, the city will begin to realize that since students are going to be living Downtown, there are going to be higher demands for new stores such as supermarkets or pharmacies which in turn could really help Binghamton grow,” Gallardo said.