ALBANY — The Port City will be one of several central New York communities vying for $10 million in potential downtown revitalization funding, an initiative launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.
The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council (CNY REDC) will award $10 million to a downtown "ripe for growth into a vibrant neighborhood where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live and work," according to a statement from the governor's office released Thursday.
Each of the state's 10 REDCs will nominate one of their communities, with the state planning to divvy out $100 million in total among the 10 communities best meeting a range of potential redevelopment criteria.
Once the winners are selected, plans targeting economic development, transportation, housing and community projects will be completed by early 2017.
Oswego will make a "very serious play" at the initiative, Mayor Billy Barlow said after the governor's announcement.
With the funding officially in the state budget, the city will hammer out details on potential projects so Oswego is "in the running" in central New York, the mayor said.
"We actually already have the wheels in motion," Barlow said. "We are working within the administration to develop a broad, overall concept on how we would apply such funding. We will invest all the energy we have to try to be a selected community for this funding." The initiative builds on gains the region has made under the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, according to the governor's office's statement, creating urban centers "that will cement the area's legacy and position it as a major gateway, with strengths in advanced manufacturing, agribusiness ... and more." "A thriving downtown can provide a tremendous boost to the local economy," Cuomo said. "This initiative will transform a select downtown neighborhood into a vibrant place for people to live, work and raise a family." Community Development Office Director Justin Rudgick called the announcement the "biggest news" coming out of the state budget.
"The city of Oswego is poised to capitalize on this tremendous funding opportunity ... to develop projects that will enhance the downtown corridor," Rudgick said, calling the initiative a "game changer." The city will focus on creating economic and development opportunities that would use the $10 million to "leverage additional private investment dollars into the area," said Rudgick, who noted beyond development projects, "there could be mechanisms to engage in downtown beautification projects." Planning and Zoning Director Amy Birdsall said in an interview the city was "enthusiastic" about competing for the initiative.
"This innovative program will provide an unprecedented opportunity to infuse concentrated investment into Oswego's revitalization and to reinvigorate the local economy," Birdsall said. "This initiative will catalyze further public and private investment into our downtown core, making it an even more vibrant attraction for residents, businesses and tourists." The downtown's potential for leveraging extra public and private support is one of seven criteria the CNY REDC will weigh in deciding which city receives the funding.
The other criteria include: a "compact and well-defined" downtown; a "year-round downtown" with a sizable or increasing population; strong job growth potential; properties or characteristics enhancing the attractiveness and livability of the downtown and developable mixed-use spaces; cities must articulate how they can "create polices that enhance quality of life," including using land banks, modern zoning codes and street plans; and local stakeholders must commit "to build and implement a strategic investment plan for the downtown." "The Regional Councils have been key to generating new opportunities for local economies," Cuomo said. "I am excited to have them spearhead this new effort to build on that progress from the ground up." Former New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales will chair the initiative and lead a team of private sector experts and State Department planners, with support from the Division of Homes and Community Renewal.