OSWEGO — State, county and city officials described Thursday as a great day for the future of Oswego, where the state plans to infuse almost $10 million into projects fostering development and harnessing the Port City’s character.
In an event that packed local political, business and community leaders into the Children’s Museum of Oswego, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a dozen major projects slated to receive funding through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s investment program that saw 10 cities out of 122 applicants win awards last year.
Hochul said the governor’s office and state leaders have grown increasingly focused on upstate development after years of lawmakers funneling major projects to larger urban areas.
“We really were abandoned,” Hochul said of the region, noting Oswego’s projects would not “let our local businesses slip away” and would encourage millenials to live and work in the burgeoning downtown for years to come.
The selection process — geared towards housing and retail projects, small business and Bridge Street improvements and beautification efforts — followed almost a year of coordination between city and state officials, residents and state-hired consultant Stantec.
Hochul thanked Mayor Billy Barlow and other leaders for the collaborative effort, saying they ensured “the business community and the residents who’ve been here all these years who never gave up on this community are now here on the cusp of a whole new era.”
The mayor noted the city already had a number of projects underway that worked in its favor when the state reviewed its winning application last summer.
Barlow cited a waterfront feasibility study for marina development and waterfront connectivity, significant enhancements by the Department of Public Works, the ongoing efforts of the Oswego Renaissance Association and its participants, and partners like the Shineman Foundation and Pathfinder Bank serving as “the backbone of the community, believing in the people and their projects.”
“When a community believes in itself … more positive things will happen,” said Barlow.
The final 12 projects selected by the state are as follows, including estimates provided by city officials earlier this year, because state officials did not release specific dollar figures for each project Thursday:
• River Walk improvements: $625,000;
• Revolving matching grant fund for small businesses: $600,000;
• Cahill Building renovation: $700,000;
• 40-unit housing development at 147-161 W. First St.: $1 million;
• Midtown Plaza 95-unit housing and mixed use redevelopment: $2.2 million;
• Harbor View Square (former Flexo Wire site) 75-unit housing and retail: $750,000;
• Lake Ontario Water Park (indoor park near Quality Inn): $500,000
• Market Street pocket park: $80,000;
• West Bridge/First Street Global Buffet housing/retail redevelopment: $700,000;
• Bridge Street crosswalk and safety improvements from West First Street to West Third Street: $1 million;
• Buckhout-Jones facade restoration: $195,000;
• Children's Museum of Oswego renovations and exhibit improvements: $300,000.
These project estimates total roughly $8.6 million, but the state had about $9.7 million total to award, with $300,000 of the $10 million DRI covering Stantec’s expenses.
Barlow and other officials said it remains to be seen how and when exactly developers and the city will directly receive funding for the projects.
The mayor noted state grants typically come in the form of reimbursements, but some developers may need a combination of reimbursements and low-interest financing to kickstart their projects.
Most of the developments have a projected timeline of one to two years, according to city records.
Hochul noted she and the governor were “two of the most impatient people” in Albany, so she hoped to return for groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings as soon as possible.
Jillian Shaver, the executive director of the Children’s Museum of Oswego who’s developed the museum along with her husband Jonathan, said she was honored to host the event and “excited to see what this investment from the state is going to bring the city.”
“We are extremely thankful for the support we are receiving from the state, from local leadership and the community to move this project forward,” Shaver said. “Downtown revitalization efforts are contagious, so under the mayor’s leadership in moving Oswego forward, I think this is just the beginning.”
Tony Pauldine, the developer renovating the historic Cahill building, said he was pleased the project was included in the DRI and was “thankful for all the work the mayor and the city has done moving this forward.”
“The citizens overwhelmingly supported the project and we are glad to be a part of it,” he said.
The following proposals and estimates were submitted by the city as potential DRI recipients but did not make the state’s final cut:
• Redesign of Don R. Hill Civic Plaza: $750,000;
• Downtown lighting on Bridge Street and Utica Street bridges: $390,000;
• Renovation of an Oswego River pump station: $88,200;
• Repairs for near-downtown neighborhood residences: $125,000;
• Façade improvements to Old City Hall: $240,000;
• An investment in the business incubator at the old Price Chopper location now owned by the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency: $1.5 million;
• Public art investments in sculptures, murals and banners: $75,000;
• West Pier Landing, a 47-unit housing project on a vacant west side lot on the river: $1.9 million;
• Renovations to the old YMCA building: $500,000;
• An overhaul to the green space near West First Street and Utica Street: $600,000;
• Investments in a range of commercial and residential improvements and upper floor housing conversion: $826,375.
State officials did not provide reasons for each rejection, but said they were focused on awarding projects specifically close to the downtown center that would improve housing and state Route 104, and create dozens of jobs.
Several of the proposals that did not receive awards can still seek funding through other statewide economic development sources, and small businesses and commercial properties can apply for money in the city’s matching grant program awarded more than half a million dollars in DRI funding.