FULTON — The city of Fulton submitted a fourth application for the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative this week as neighboring Oswego is currently bustling with construction related to the $10 million the city was awarded in 2016.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) is entering it’s fourth year, and Fulton, which has come up short on previous attempts, is yearning for 2019 to be different. Fulton’s application, which was unveiled Friday, contains nearly 30 transformative projects aimed at growing the local economy and redeveloping the city center.
Fulton’s application, titled “Blazing New Trails,” centers on capitalizing on the city’s natural and manmade assets, including the waterfront, traditional downtown and the state Route 481 corridor. The application is aimed at transforming Fulton’s downtown and waterfront into a regional attraction, using the investment to implement more than a half-dozen strategies.
The annual DRI is aimed at transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities, and is set to invest $100 million into 10 downtown neighborhoods across New York. The 10 state Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) each nominate a community within their region for the annual award.
Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said Friday that the application is stronger than previous years, but noted it’s still anyone’s guess as to whether or not the city’s 2019 plan is strong enough to woo the Central New York REDC, which selects the winner in the region.
“We’re hopeful,” Woodward said, adding he’s optimistic. “That’s why we put the application in. You have to try.”
Over the years, Woodward has lamented the state DRI does not take need into consideration, and pointed out it would likely help the city if financial need was part of the criteria.
The 10 REDCs will consider seven criteria in selecting nominees, including a compact downtown with well-defined boundaries, the ability to capitalize on prior or future private and public investments, recent or impending job growth, an attractive and livable downtown community and the identification of transformative projects ready for implementation.
State officials say the DRI is a comprehensive, multi-agency approach to transform vulnerable, vacant or forgotten areas of the state into livable, walkable, dynamic neighborhoods. In announcing the DRI funding this year, Cuomo called it a successful initiative that boosts local economies and fosters vibrant neighborhoods while improving residents’ quality of life.
“The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is so much more than a $10 million prize,” Cuomo said. “This critical program completely transforms downtown communities, resulting in unprecedented growth and development that leads to a renewed sense of pride in our cities, towns and villages.”
In a Friday press release, the city noted the plan, if realized, would provide more than $60 million of investment in the city in the next two to three years. City officials said job creation, investment and creating a vibrant downtown would be the main focus in the “blueprint for success.”
Reached Friday shortly after the final proposal was unveiled, Council President Don Patrick, D-3rd Ward, said the $10 million award “would be a complete turnaround” for the city.
“It would be amazing for us,” Patrick said. “To invest in our future and develop certain sites throughout the city — the downtown section, the marina, the Nestle site.”
In 2018, Fulton was one of six communities in the Central New York REDC territory to apply for the DRI, which ultimately went to the city of Auburn. Past winners in central New York include the cities of Oswego and Cortland.
Fulton’s 2019 application points out the assets critical to the city’s success are tightly concentrated near the Oswego River, and each of the 26 proposed projects are located along, or in close proximity to, the waterway.
Included in the 2019 application are a number of factors working in Fulton’s favor, including $90 million in new investment inside the DRI boundary in the past five years and the inclusion of a federal opportunity zone and brownfield opportunity area.
Officials say the $10 million would allow the city to capitalize on an extensive waterfront and trail network, focus on entrepreneurial growth and mixed-use structure, build on a cluster of legacy manufacturers and strengthen infrastructure for downtown businesses.
Fulton officials held a community engagement meeting earlier this year, and according to the application “received a remarkable level of community input and support” from more than 200 individuals.
“The plan this year has gathered more public input and support than previous years,” Woodward said. “The engagement with residents and business owners has enlightened our city in terms of support and planning for development.”
Fulton’s downtown is much different than it was decades ago prior to urban renewal, Woodward previously said, noting it was once full of retail stores that started to disappear as internet shopping crushed brick and mortar retail.
“It’s changed,” Woodward said of downtown. “I grew up here and when I was a kid we had 15,000 people living here in Fulton, and my parents and us kids used to go to downtown every weekend and walk what we called the dizzy block. There were a ton of stores down there.”
The city’s 2019 DRI proposal includes 26 transformative projects, which Woodward said “all have some value to them,” including the following (dollar figures represent total project costs, with DRI investment in parenthesis):
• $775,000 to rehabilitate the historic Case-Lee House into a seven-room bed and breakfast ($155,000)
• $1.2 million to renovate the Fulton Public Library ($240,000)
• $250,000 for a rooftop dining and entertainment expansion of Blue Moon Grill ($50,000)
• $4.5 million to build upon the city’s multi-use trail system ($903,000)
• $2.3 million to revitalize the Canal Landing Marina ($455,000)
• $650,000 to expand the current services offered by Fulton Family Medicine ($130,000)
• $127,500 to upgrade and expand Tavern on the Lock ($25,500)
• $195,000 to renovate two properties located at Canalview Mall
• $250,000 to develop a new brew pub in downtown Fulton ($50,000)
• $3.75 million to turn multiple city-owned parking lots along the riverfront into condominiums and retail ($750,000)
• $18 million expansion of Oswego Health’s Fulton Medical Center ($3.6 million)
• $12.85 million to redevelop the former Nestle site into a retail and commercial business park ($2.57 million)
• $4 million for the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency to construct a 30,000 square foot manufacturing facility on the former Nestle site ($795,000)
• $3.9 million to transform the former Michaud nursing home into Maples Assisted Living Facility ($780,000)
• $2.1 million for packaging upgrades at Huhtamaki ($411,600)
• $2.2 million to transform a vacant storage facility into an indoor family fun center and sports complex ($431,400)
• $225,000 to create safer pedestrian walkways and crossing on state Route 481 ($45,000)
• $125,000 to create a café and coffee house on S. Second Street ($25,000)
If a community is selected by the REDC, a local planning committee comprised of local leaders, stakeholders and government officials would be formed to oversee the development of a strategic downtown plan.
Fulton’s full 2019 DRI plan can be found on the city’s website.