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 second round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), a $100 million effort to improve the vitality of urban centers across New York State.
In 2017, ten communities were identified by the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) to participate in the DRI. 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 Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Communities selected in Round Two of the DRI were:
Finger Lakes – Batavia
New York City – Bronx
Central New York – Cortland
Long Island – Hicksville
Capital Region – Hudson
Mid-Hudson – Kingston
Western New York – Olean
Mohawk Valley – Rome
North Country – Watertown
Southern Tier – Watkins Glen
Round Two Winners of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative
Batavia’s downtown is a mixed use, affordable neighborhood with access to jobs, anchor businesses, and city and county services. The area has an excellent foundation upon which to continue its revitalization, including amenities such as recreational sites, healthcare facilities, food markets, library, and various retail and restaurant venues in a walkable environment. The city will capitalize on previous planning efforts to guide investment in the DRI area and focus on transformational projects. Through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the City of Batavia will accelerate the redevelopment of existing buildings, and create additional business and residential opportunities downtown. By investing in the entrepreneurial climate and downtown environmental qualities, and by encouraging ethnic diversity and active lifestyles, Batavia hopes to foster a creative class of workers who will spur continued job growth.
The South Bronx is one of New York City’s most rapidly evolving areas. Neighborhoods like Mott Haven, Concourse Village, Melrose and Morrisania have undergone dramatic, grassroots and community driven transformation. These efforts have yielded dividends; population and job growth are outpacing the rest of the city. The South Bronx is booming with private and public investments in affordable housing, cultural facilities, retail and other sectors. Many local policies enabled this growth of activity, such as the South Bronx Initiative and Melrose Retail Strategy, and the resultant Lower Concourse rezoning. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative will harness this energy by focusing on the Bronx Civic Center area, the heart of the Bronx that ties these diverse neighborhoods together. The strategic investment plan and DRI investment will spark waves of additional economic activity, uplift a lower-income community, and demonstrate best practices in protecting the economically vulnerable from residential displacement.
As a gateway to both Central New York and the Finger Lakes, the City of Cortland is a magnet for hundreds of thousands of tourists annually. It also serves county residents and SUNY Cortland students as the primary shopping area in the county. The central business district is at the core of the area designated for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, consisting primarily of commercial and residential mixed-use attached buildings built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Land currently used for surface parking could accommodate new development, creating a denser downtown with additional economic and property tax benefits. Cortland envisions new space for community activities and additional housing to accommodate an expanding residential and tourism population. The city plans to guide the redevelopment of its downtown through the expansion of the creative economy, building a complete downtown neighborhood, and re-imagining its infrastructure for the 21st century.
Hicksville, a hamlet in the Town of Oyster Bay, is a transit-rich and diverse community in central Nassau County. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative area is located within the central business district, and includes ethnic dining establishments, specialty food markets and cultural centers, as well as retail and office uses. Hicksville embraces both the mega-retail hub and downtown mom-and-pop storefronts. Public support for revitalization, coupled with DRI funding, would allow improvements in the pedestrian environment to make it safer and incentivize walking and biking as viable transportation options. Hicksville is already strategically positioned to benefit from and contribute to the projected growth in healthcare, high-tech and educational industry sectors; putting it on track to attract educated and well-paid professionals to the area. Pending improvements to the busiest station on the Long Island Rail Road will provide the opportunity for a true renaissance of the area. With anticipated increases in commuter traffic and demand for housing, the vision for Hicksville also includes new public space for events and increasing the diversity of housing stock.
Hudson’s BRIDGE District has the look and feel of the post-industrial cityscape that millennials seek, yet retains a working historic waterfront along the Hudson River. Dense housing in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative area ranges from historically-designated single-family homes to townhouses and high-rise apartments, served by a variety of dining and shopping options in revitalized historic structures. Recent organic, entrepreneurial development has primed Hudson for the next phase of its revitalization: the increased development of mixed-use projects that incorporate affordable and market-rate housing and transportation oriented design; job incubation to create high quality, living-wage jobs; workforce development to prepare local workers for year-round local employment; and a re-imagining of the waterfront for expanded public use and enjoyment. DRI investment will drive the continued success of existing private and public ventures; emphasize job growth and the attractiveness of the district; and set the stage for economic and civic expansion in the district and across the Hudson.
The City of Kingston’s downtown has historically been the city’s economic hub, containing county office buildings, financial and professional services offices, the city’s sole supermarket, and key recreational spaces. Within the past ten years, it has experienced a renaissance led by an influx of new investments and a resurgence of new cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops. Kingston has an ideal combination of recent strategic investments, shovel-ready future opportunities, involved anchor institutions and partners, recent infrastructure improvements, and supportive policies and plans to jump-start the DRI planning process. Additional Downtown Revitalization Initiative investments in the area dubbed the “Stockade Business District” will continue the area’s economic revitalization and create new opportunities for the surrounding neighborhoods, towns and counties.
Olean’s vision is to make the city vibrant and residents optimistic about opportunities to work, to learn, and to thrive in Olean, with a special emphasis on retaining younger and college-educated residents. Olean’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative area is a historic downtown that is walkable and bikeable, bounded by Olean Creek and the Allegheny River. The area includes the Central Business District with several landmark buildings plus adjoining residential districts along with several recreational assets. The area also includes the Olean General Hospital and Jamestown Community College. A newly opened Olean Business Development Center provides services to entrepreneurs. By focusing investments on people, and places for people, Olean’s revitalization will be sustainable and equitable.
The downtown area targeted for Downtown Revitalization Initiative investment in the City of Rome is rich with commercial, cultural, transportation, and recreational assets that support a vibrant and walkable place within the city. The past decade of targeted investments in environmental design, placemaking, tourist destinations, entrepreneurial innovation, and transportation choices have prepared Rome for the transformational projects DRI can bring. Job growth in advanced manufacturing, cyber technology, unmanned systems, and craft food & beverage manufacturing is already transforming the region. The city plans to further development and inspire innovation, facilitate residential repatriation, promote arts-based businesses, encourage alternate transportation, and celebrate diversity With a boost from DRI, Rome will provide the ecosystem necessary to attract and retain young professionals and their families.
Watertown’s Public Square is a city center that serves as the primary venue for inclusive community and cultural events, diverse employment opportunities, and a place for residents and visitors to find unique goods and services. Unique architecture, the Black River Blueway Trail and opportunities for improved connections add to the positive experience in downtown. In recent years, the city has established momentum in its downtown revitalization efforts. Through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the city will strengthen its position as the primary hub of commerce and culture for Jefferson and neighboring counties, drawing residents from surrounding areas to its downtown assets and attracting visitor spending from seasonal residents and tourists. A thriving downtown, which draws a constant stream of residents and visitors throughout business hours, evenings, and weekends will support the growth or maintain year-round, fulltime employment at downtown businesses.
The area selected for revitalization in the Village of Watkins Glen is a walkable, compact area connecting the downtown and a transitional business and residential area to large employers. It benefits from local amenities like the Seneca Lake waterfront, wine trails, arts scene, state park, and an internationally recognized racetrack. The village plans to address issues in the downtown that detract from these amenities, bringing Watkins Glen into the 21stcentury. The community will use the Downtown Revitalization Initiative to leverage progressive development codes and recent investments in the Watkins Glen International Race Track, to create a sustainable environment for a year-round innovative and prosperous economy.