City eyes funds for Arts District

Published May 18, 2017 at 4:15pm

This week, the state launched the second round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, a program aimed at boosting local economies by transforming communities into “vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family.” Rome will apply again, with some modifications to how it applied last time around.

In its second year, the program will invest $100 million into 10 additional downtown neighborhoods across the state. One downtown will be selected by each of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils.

The Councils will solicit applications for downtowns that are, according to the state, “ripe for revitalization and have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, greater economic and housing diversity, and opportunity.”

“In this round I don’t think we’ll focus on so many industrial sites,” said Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo. The second round, she said, seems to have “an emphasis on public engagement spaces,” she said. To reflect that, the city will continue its focus on the Arts District along West Dominick Street, including the anchor of the area, the Capitol Theatre.

In her state of the city speech earlier this month, Izzo noted that the busy theater — which will host over 1,100 events this year between the main theater and two smaller theaters — has “created nighttime activity that has been missing on West Dominick Street for some time.” She continued: “They are an integral component of any downtown revitalization initiative.”

In round one, the city focused on North James Street, the first few blocks of East and West Dominick streets and Mill Street as it leads to the canal
waterfront. Rome’s downtown is not traditional, Izzo noted. It is more of “a series of business sectors.”

In round two, the application will look quite different. Gone are several proposals that have been funded elsewhere: the Rome Turney site demolition and remediation as well as the West Dominick Street Smart Walk chief among them. Also out is the Rome Cable demolition and remediation, which has been moved to another proposal as the city focuses away from industrial sites.

Izzo said the city discussed the program with some of the cities chosen in round one, gaining insight and improving its application.

​The round two application, said Izzo, will include such things as Erie Boulevard facades and the Liberty George Parking Garage.

The 10 first round Downtown Revitalization Initiative winners were: Jamestown, Geneva, Elmira, Oswego, Oneonta, Plattsburgh, Glens Falls, Middletown, Jamaica (Queens) and Westbury.

For round two, each Regional Council will weigh eight criteria to select its nominee:

  • The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries.
  • The municipality, or the downtown’s catchment area, should be of sufficient size to support a vibrant, year-round downtown.
  • The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas.
  • There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable.
  • The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers.
  • The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development.
  • The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan.
  • The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.

Once the 10 communities are selected, the process of developing the Strategic Investment Plan will commence. A Local Planning Committee, appointed by the secretary of state in coordination with community leaders, will work with the consulting team, state planners and municipal representatives to guide and direct the establishment of a community-based vision for revitalizing downtown and the development of a Strategic Investment Plan. Plans will be complete in early 2018.