Recognizing that companies are increasingly seeking to relocate and invest in vibrant, walkable downtowns in an effort to attract and retain a talented workforce, the State launched a major new initiative – the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), to improve the vitality of urban centers across New York State.
Launched in 2016, the $100 million initiative resulted in identification by the ten Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) of one community in each region to participate in the DRI. Ten more communities were identified in 2017 (DRI Two) and again in 2018 (DRI Three). Each year, the State facilitated a community planning process that resulted in a Strategic Investment Plan for each community.
To fully leverage the impact of the DRI, Local Planning Committees identified projects that totaled in excess of the available DRI funds to ensure a continued pipeline of projects ready for funding within the community. The Governor will soon announce the projects that will receive implementation funding through the third round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Communities selected in Round Three of the DRI were:
Capital Region – Albany
Mohawk Valley – Amsterdam
Central New York – Auburn
Long Island – Central Islip
New York City – Downtown Brooklyn
Western New York – Lockport
Mid-Hudson – New Rochelle
Southern Tier – Owego
Finger Lakes – Penn Yan
North Country – Saranac Lake
Round Three Winners of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative
The City of Albany is focused on revitalizing Clinton Square to create a welcoming gateway into the capital city. This compact and walkable area, rich in history, arts and cultural assets, is where five city investment zones converge. The City envisions revitalizing Clinton Square directly while providing infill investments, corridor enhancements, and targeted housing revitalization projects. With DRI investment, residents, visitors, and the workforce will enjoy new links to the Hudson River. Clinton Square is poised to be a thriving gateway district and a distinctive hub that connects and catalyzes activity in Downtown and the Warehouse District, and draws this momentum into the Arbor Hill and Sheridan Hollow neighborhoods through public infrastructure enhancements, private project development and vibrant arts and entertainment investments.
The Amsterdam DRI area spans the Mohawk River to encompass the remaining segment of the historic downtown and new downtown areas that have emerged as the city continues to grow and evolve. The area contains mixed-use residential and commercial spaces, an assisted living facility, established businesses, and many park and recreation amenities. The City seeks to attract investment in its developable land and buildings available, and has identified potential major projects at the four points of the compass to anchor revitalization. Amsterdam is focused on bringing to life a beloved quote written by Maria Riccio Bryce for the Amsterdam Oratorio, “What once was home is home again –My Amsterdam.” The city plans to use participation in the DRI to make new businesses, visitors, and residents will be eager to come to the city that everyone so warmly refers to as “home.”
The City of Auburn is the second largest city in Central New York. Recent public and private investment, local planning efforts, and capital infrastructure projects have catalyzed downtown’s redevelopment. However, there is still work to be done along the City’s riverfront, transportation corridors, and arts district that comprise the DRI investment area and provide the greatest potential for vacant property revitalization and corridor enhancement. The City is seeking to keep the momentum of recent development going by mending a historic downtown damaged by urban renewal and revitalizing vacant brownfield and riverfront properties. To leverage DRI funds, City leadership has embraced a “#This Place Matters” campaign to achieve $40 million of public-private funds to invest in downtown.
Central Islip is a diverse economic and residential community with over one-third of its population represented by ethnic minorities. As a result of this diverse economy and increasing residential population, the downtown Central Islip is on the verge of becoming a vibrant transit-oriented epicenter for the entire Islip community. DRI funds will be used to leverage the state's investment in the LIRR Third Track and Double Track projects by promoting transit oriented development and downtown revitalization adjacent to the Central Islip rail station. With building façade and landscaping improvements, this downtown can become a more inviting, enjoyable and successful area. There are many sites along the downtown Carleton Avenue corridor that are ripe for redevelopment with the advent of sewers, including a potential public/private partnership that would be ideal for needed mixed-use, transit oriented development.
Downtown Brooklyn is Kings County’s central business district, as well as its civic, cultural, transit, and employment hub. With more than 12,000 residential units, 20 million square-feet of occupied offices, 11 higher education institutions, and new retail and entertainment destinations, the area has been transformed into a 24/7 community. Downtown Brooklyn has become an urban center for the information technology, arts, and entertainment industries. To reap the full benefits of the Downtown’s recent economic growth, the DRI effort will spur investment in much needed critical infrastructure in the Downtown core to create welcoming and safe connections to key assets, ensure equitable and accessible future growth, and improve wellbeing and job opportunities in traditionally underserved communities. Jumpstarted by the DRI investment, Downtown Brooklyn will improve the public realm and physical connections to the neighborhoods by extending educational and entrepreneurial opportunities and linking cultural hubs of the Downtown core, the Brooklyn Cultural Districts, DUMBO, and surrounding communities.
The City of Lockport is a unique canal community anchored by a growing, progressive downtown district and an established tourism season. The walkable and bikeable 15-block central business district has several iconic buildings that are vacant or underutilized and represent impactful economic development opportunities, especially for a blend of affordable, market-rate, and luxury housing. Recent public investment has already driven private developer interest in downtown properties, leading to significant improvements such as the renovation of the blighted 57 Canal Street property into a bustling epicenter, now host to numerous community events. The DRI planning effort will unlock the downtown’s full potential by enhancing corridors from residential neighborhoods into the heart of downtown with revitalized buildings, attractive storefronts, and residential options – providing a walkable, livable, and sustainable community that residents and visitors alike can take pride in.
New Rochelle will connect its evolving and prosperous city center with the mile-long Lincoln Avenue Corridor that contains mixed-income residential housing, a newly renovated hospital, green space, a Metro North Train Station and part of the city’s Arts and Cultural District. The Strategic Investment Plan will build upon significant public-private investment over the past few years to spur commercial, residential, and mixed-use development in the city. DRI investments will leverage city resources and private investments to forge connections between residential neighborhoods in the northern portion of the corridor with commercial, institutional, and cultural resources to the south. The city envisions infrastructure improvements that will improve pedestrian and traffic circulation and extend the downtown’s walkable, sustainable, transit-oriented design into this corridor to create a bustling environment in which to live and work.
The Village of Owego is a gateway to the Finger Lakes, Ithaca, and Watkins Glen regions. The one square mile focus area includes the historic downtown and a transitional business and residential area on both sides of the Susquehanna River. The compact and walkable area contains amenities that support and enhance downtown living and quality of life, such as municipal parks, theaters, and walking paths that connect to the river. With impending job growth sparked by two major “anchor” projects, the Village will leverage DRI funds to improve downtown living; improve the economic environment to attract business and skilled labor; incentivize cultural and entertainment activities that will attract residents and visitors of all ages and income levels; and capture and expand upon strong community pride in the downtown’s quality of life.
The Village of Penn Yan, a hub of business and recreational activity surrounded by bucolic farmland, leads the Finger Lakes Region in manufacturing job growth. Rich in history, the Village’s downtown is comprised of lovely tree-lined streets, intact historic buildings, and beautiful landscaping. While so many other main streets have lost out to strip mall developments and big box retailers, Penn Yan’s downtown is still the center of commerce for residents and visitors alike. However, a number of barriers, including the impact of recent extreme floods and lack of housing options, are suppressing Penn Yan’s full potential for leveraging private investment and increasing economic opportunity for all. The DRI planning effort in Penn Yan will focus on overcoming these barriers and promoting sustained, year-round economic growth by concentrating on four areas: leveraging the abundant natural assets, capitalizing on the growing craft food and beverage industry, using the local art scene as an economic engine, and capturing the intellectual capital that lives and vacations in the Village.
Downtown Saranac Lake is a place that’s authentically Adirondack, a historic village where the lakes and mountains are as accessible as they are beautiful. A hub for surrounding communities, downtown Saranac Lake is characterized by multi-story mixed-use row buildings fronted by narrow streets, with small block lengths creating a downtown that is efficient, compact and scaled for people. Over $45 million has been invested in downtown projects over the past 10 years, with the majority of the investments occurring in the last 5 years. The Village is now ready to focus on projects that increase the Village's quality of life and year-round public amenities as well as the development of market rate housing and rehabilitation of existing housing essential to the attraction of additional professionals and families to Saranac Lake.