ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Earlier this month the City of Elmira announced a “much-needed facelift” for the graffiti-covered Centertown Parking Garage. “All hands are on deck currently cleaning, painting, light replacing, and so much more!” said a Facebook post on August 9th. 18 News has now learned the cleanup was done to prepare for hundreds of visitors attending a ceremony for LECOM medical students. The “White Coat Ceremony” was held August 12th at the Clemens Center for 128 new LECOM students and nearly 800 of their family and friends.
“These are people seeing Elmira for the first time,” County Legislator Martin Chalk told a county committee meeting on Monday. “It was a big deal. It was held at the Clemens Center. Karen Cromer from the Clemens Center called and said, these people are going to be parking at the garage, and I can’t explain to you what was present at the Centretown Garage, just disgusting things all over the walls. We have ongoing programs at the Clemens Center, and because of the homeless people there, it gets scary.”
Mr. Chalk credited the City of Elmira Department of Buildings & Grounds for cleaning up the garage just days before the ceremony. Mr. Chalk said crews were even able to repair one of the three broken elevators, which have been down for months.
“Within a four-day period, they got an elevator working, they got the place painted,” said Chalk. “They had to do a good job cleaning it up for LECOM. The problem is, the day after, it started again, because we have 9 or 10 homeless people living there, it starts all over again.”
On Wednesday, 18 News reporter Nick Dubina checked the elevator that Mr. Chalk said was fixed, but it didn’t work.
Newly-obtained bodycam video from Elmira Police shows what the stairwells looked like just a day before the cleanup started. Officers can also be heard noticing the smell of urine in the stairwells and hallways. You can watch the full videos below:
The cleanup at the garage comes as the City of Elmira says it will invest more than 3 million dollars to renovate the 45-year-old structure. You can see a breakdown of how $1.3 million dollars were already spent on “Phase 1” infrastructure fixes of a three-phase renovation. The funding came from the $10 million grant that the City of Elmira received from the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative in 2019. The Chemung County Dept. of Public works provided a breakdown of how that money was spent below:
A Freedom of Information request submitted by 18 News shows $2,200,000 million in American Rescue Plan funds have also been set aside for the garage. Documents show the City has already spent $509,465.81 of that money.
New businesses are also being planned for the ground floor. As we reported in July, they include a brewery-style bar and gaming area, a juice bar, and a new restaurant.