OSWEGO — The Oswego Common Council recently tabbed a new firm to conduct a six-figure waterfront feasibility study to assess development opportunities along the Port City's waterfront, with officials hoping to capitalize on one of Oswego's natural assets to draw business and tourism to the city and region.
Edgewater Resources — a consultant firm with experience planning and developing waterfronts — was picked unanimously by councilors this week after a recommendation from Community Development Office (CDO) Director Justin Rudgick.
The city's contribution to the study is only $20,000, according to city officials, with the bulk of the work covered by a $132,250 grant awarded in December through the state's Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
The previous firm tentatively selected earlier this year, SvR, presented a proposal that was $1,000 less, but city officials agreed Edgewater Resources' background and experience with Great Lakes ports could best benefit Oswego.
Rudgick notes Edgewater Resources is currently at work on a $200 million project on Rochester's water front.
"This is going to be a great project for the city as it will provide a clear road map of strategies and achievable results to enhance and capitalize on developing the city's waterfront," he said.
Greg Weykamp, president of Edgewater Resources, said in an interview that he and others from his company met with officials and toured the Port City waterfront on Tuesday.
"We're boaters and we work on waterfronts and marinas all over the world," he said. "You can export a lot of things, but you can't export the lake and natural resources that drew people to these places on our waterfront and waterways." Weykamp said his company focuses not only on design and planning but on actual development, so costs aren't taken for granted.
"It's easy to draw plans if you don't focus on the economic underpinning," he said, noting many waterfront cities have fallen victim to downturns in manufacturing and jobs in general. "We try to balance a compelling vision people are excited about with economic realities. We do realistic plans that can get built." Officials anticipate the study will be completed within 180 days after the project kicks off, which is likely within the next few weeks.
Rudgick noted the city still needed to work with the state department "to finalize the work plan for the grant." Councilor Eric Va n Buren, R-6th Ward, said he was "very excited for the company to begin work." "I think they have a great history in this field and can bring some positive plans to Oswego for our waterfront," he said.
Councilor Nate Emmons, R-3rd Ward, called it a "great move" to hire Edge-water Resources for the job.
"I think [it] will place us in an excellent position to develop a private-public partnership for the actual redevelopment of the harbor," Emmons said.
Mayor Billy Barlow said he'd like the project to move quickly.
"Using and capitalizing on our waterfront is an essential part of revitalizing our community," Barlow said. "Having the guide and steps to follow to tactfully use our waterfront and our assets is important." Weykamp noted after stakeholder meetings over the next few months, Edge-water Resources would hold open houses with community members to receive feedback and "collect as many cool ideas as we can" in forming the best plans.
"It's not about us coming up with some brilliant idea," he said. "It's about listening to people who know the area, putting [ideas] in different configurations and presenting alternatives to the community." In other business, city officials recently announced Rudgick's office closed out a housing rehabilitation grant from 2009, successfully preventing the need to pay back the state $400,000.
The grant, awarded by state Homes and Community Renewal, provided assistance to 16 properties. But state officials found outstanding items during a monitoring visit in October of 2014, namely failure to complete the project by showing environmental clearance testing for lead-based paint was performed and completed in five of the properties.
Multiple officials say the CDO failed to respond to a state report over the issue in January 2015, and this January the state declared the project incomplete and noncompliant, calling for the potential recapture of the entire $400,000 grant within 30 days.
Rudgick responded to the state by applying for a lead clearance exemption for two eligible properties, and on three other properties rehabilitated with the grant funds he ordered lead testing that revealed "no high concentration of lead," satisfying the state's concerns over the project's completion seven years after it began.