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Commons area underway in city's southside

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Commons area underway in city's southside
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It's been a long time coming. Monday Binghamton City officials joined leaders from the city's Southbridge area to break ground on the Southside commons. Our Janelle Burrell was there.

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- "I can't contain it. Really, really happy," exclaimed Fiske Hanson, leader of the Southside West Neighborhood Assembly.

It was an emotion shared by most who gathered for the official groundbreaking of the Southside Commons in Binghamton's Southbridge district, a project that has been years in the making.

"Having this bridge to the southside and this new project to help the businesses around here I think is really going enhance everything that's going on in our city right now," said Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan.

The commons area, located behind South Washington Street and Vestal Avenue, will serve as an anchor between the pedestrian downtown area and the South Washington business district. It will feature a mixed-use public facility, parking, green space and outdoor seating.

But the design the city settled on wasn't without controversy.

"If there was a downside of the project, we don't have vehicular connection through for example to the Number 5 parking lot which I think would have been an advantage to everybody including the pedestrians," said Southside business owner, Mike Haas.

Some area businesses were opposed to the fact that traffic won't be able to pass through the commons site, but officials say the final plan is one of compromise.

"The plan that we have today is the best plan to move forward with all of the different needs, for parking for green space, that have been brought up at our hearings about this," said Sean Massey, the city council representative for the neighborhood.

What all agree on: it will likely bring an added economic boost to the area.

"We certainly will benefit to some degree," Haas said. "I think the local restaurants, I think once the register receipts start ringing up, they'll finally realize the benefit of this."

The commons is expected to completed by September. It is being funded by a $250,000 state grant.

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