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JC Penney on the Oswego Plaza in Oswego is closing after doing business in the city since 1976. Hobby Lobby — and possibly Texas Roadside restaurant — will take its place.

Mayor Barlow: “State of the city is strong”

Sure, the city is losing JC Penney but it’s gaining a new Hobby Lobby and possibly a Texas Roadhouse franchise

By Stefan Yablonski

“There is an undeniable renewed confidence in this community. We’ve made tremendous progress in recent years. We have more going for us right now, today, than at any time in recent memory,” Mayor Billy Barlow said at the close of his State of the City address in January. “I believe in this community and the people of Oswego and that is why I know the state of our city is strong.”

He offered a list of examples.

And, he recently commented regarding the looming closure of the JC Penney store on the city’s east side.

“We are, of course, disappointed to learn of JC Penney’s closure — but we expected this for many years. We knew eventually the store would close after it survived several rounds of widespread corporate closures,” he said. “Luckily, we already have a new tenant in Hobby Lobby looking to occupy the space.”

Also the JC Penney closure will allow the tentative Texas Roadhouse project to progress, he added.

“So, the loss of a business will be replaced by two more businesses employing more people and bringing new unique services to the community,” he said. “The economy and business climate here in the city is strong right now and I don’t always use corporate decisions made by chains as a real gauge of the local economy. I do think a Hobby Lobby and Texas Roadhouse will be welcomed here in the community and quite popular. I support their proposed locations and site plans at this time.”

City progress highlighted

“In 2022, we replaced the aging Breitbeck Park playground with an impressive new structure containing Central New York’s first wheelchair accessible merry-go-round, directly next to the newly installed outdoor fitness court,” the mayor said.

The city simultaneously constructed and opened the new 8,000 square foot skate park along the East Linear Riverwalk, he added.

Currently, they are building a park and train-themed playground suitable for kids younger than 7. It will include musical instruments for interactive play, he said.

The structure will be built at the Rotary Park area on East First Street.

The mayor said he is “particularly proud of the work we’ve accomplished along our waterfront.”

A $20 million investment, mostly in the form of grant funding, has transformed the waterfront area to be second to none, according to Barlow.

“We will continue our work to improve our waterfront in 2023, particularly along the riverfront south of the Utica Street Bridge,” he said.

The area is a popular destination for fishermen and walkers alike.

“We’ll use $2 million in FEMA disaster funding to start and complete the West Linear Riverwalk Rehabilitation Project,” he said. “We will also work to open the new pavilion at Wright’s Landing, with several new amenities for boaters and residents, install a jet ski dock and finally complete the $9 million William Cahill Pier Project and the ongoing transformation of Sheldon Beach near SUNY Oswego.”

Street work planned

This year, the city will focus on Route 48 from Murray Street to Utica Street.

Barlow explained that they will utilize already-secured transportation grant funding for the project.

They are considering changing the layout of the four-lane gateway corridor — to reduce speed and traffic, while adding additional greenspace, beautification and pedestrian-friendly traffic measures to revive this area that has fallen victim to recent business closures and general neglect, he said.

If implemented properly, the $1 million road construction project will bring energy and confidence back to the area and encourage private sector investment to further expand the growth experienced in the downtown district, according to the mayor.

More than $1 million of city streets will be paved in 2023, with a particular focus on some of the worst areas in the community, Barlow said. It will be his administration’s largest paving plan.

This significant investment will build upon the unprecedented levels of paving that have been completed year after year during his term, he added.

With the March 2023 opening of the indoor Splash water park, all 12 DRI projects will have been brought to fruition, Barlow said.

“All the hard work we have done to revive our community has positioned Oswego for continued positive growth, compounding on our successes, particularly in light of the recent announcement that Micron will be constructing an enormous chip fabrication facility in Onondaga County,” he said.

Communities throughout Central New York have begun planning to accommodate the influx of new residents.

The “multifaceted transformation of Oswego” has made it a more desirable place to live, he said.

“We need to tell our story and showcase our community as Micron employees begin to be hired or relocate to Central New York,” he continued.

To accomplish this, Barlow will propose to the Common Council a two-year, $100,000 advertising campaign, strategically promoting the city to help capture some of CNY’s newest residents.

He will also propose an additional $100 reduction to the annual water and sewer bill for flat rate paying homeowners in the city; resulting in a total annual reduction of $400 per year since the day he took office.