BUSY 2018 PLANNED — Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo in her office at City Hall. It will be a busy 2018, she said, as the city begins many of the projects to be funded with portions of the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant announced last fall. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

City focus on development in 2018

Published Jan 3, 2018 at 4:10pm

This year City Hall will be busy with numerous projects to be at least partially funded by the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, according to Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo as she enters the third year of her first four-year term.

In September, the state announced $10 million for Rome to split among a number of downtown projects ranging from infrastructure to housing to quality of life. The city will soon submit its list of specifics — details of the projects, costs and how much of the state money will go to each — for state approval.

Also of key importance to the administration this year will be the 100-acre site where the Wright Park Manor and Woodhaven apartment complexes once stood, bordered by Floyd Avenue and Park Drive, she said.

The DRI was granted with the understanding that the city move on the projects almost immediately. It is with these projects that “everything here kind of falls into place,” addressing some of the downtown’s most pressing needs. “When the DRI is completed, we want to see substantive change.”

Some of the projects have evolved just since the money was announced. For example, the city moved Centro’s bus service headquarters out of the Liberty-George parking garage because the building will be demolished with DRI funds.

The Authority moved to the train station, but also put up a large shelter on the 300 block of West Dominick Street near the parking garage, but that site hasn’t been working well, Izzo said. So the proposal now includes a small downtown hub on West Liberty Street along the sidewalk next to the entrance to the City Hall parking lot with a $400,000 price tag, all from DRI funds. That site would have Centro staff present. The move by Centro should help conditions at the train station, she noted, as infrastructure improvements are likely coming in the near future.

Almost all the demolition at the former Woodhaven is done, Izzo noted. The Wright Park Manor site has been vacant for years. “We have some developers who are looking at the site,” she said. The city is working with a consultant and with Mohawk Valley EDGE to market the site. The option that seems to have the most traction is for a more commercial concept on the Floyd Avenue side across from Mohawk Valley Community College and residential uses closer to Griffiss Business and Technology Park. The residential area could host more than one type of housing, she noted, including focused senior housing.

The Department of Community and Economic Development is “going to be front and center for a while,” Izzo said. Not only is it integral to the DRI projects, but it is heavily involved in the city’s quality of life programming. Her campaign promised Rome would “up our game in economic development,” she noted, and she means to “continue to make Rome more inviting for businesses and residents. That’s how you make the city grow.”

The department is leading the way with the city’s social media presence, working with the Parks Department to organize and promote Halloween and Christmas events, using the Griffo Green outside City Hall more for public events and doing more with the city’s expanding collection of Christmas lights and decorations. “Instead of being negative about the four seasons, be positive,” she said of embracing outdoor opportunities in all seasons, from summer concerts to ice fishing and skiing. There will be more in 2018, Izzo promised, adding that the city will soon roll out a new version of its website.

Here are her thoughts on some of the areas of opportunity for Rome:

Erie Canal Village/Fort Bull site

The city is leading the environmental review of the northern side of the Rome-New London Road site in preparation for the Humane Society of Rome to build a new headquarters there, Izzo said. Lease negotiations are also progressing. The site at the edge of the parking lot would also be home to the city’s Animal Control office, consolidating it from an office in the Public Works complex on Race Street and a dog holding facility at the old water shop on Black River Boulevard. “The intention is for construction to commence in 2018,” she said of the Humane Society facility.

As for Erie Canal Village, which has not opened for the summer in several years, Izzo is not hopeful. “There is no Erie Canal Village,” she said. A management company signed on a few years ago, but has not opened the site since, and there had been a back-and-forth with the city over the artifacts located there. They have been relocated for an inventory but the old buildings there have suffered in recent winters. “I have not seen a concrete plan for anyone to reopen any kind of business on that property,” said Izzo, who ran the site in the 1980s when it was city-owned. It is with mixed emotions that she said the city should not have sold it in 2003. “It had a definite place in the history-making of our area,” but the selling point was the packet boat and the rides on it. The boat now sits broken and unused. “This city could never step in and take it,” she said, as it would cost it $10 million or more to bring it up to a condition where it could be operated properly.

Griffiss

Izzo said the reorganized Floyd Avenue/Route 825 intersection, one of the two new roundabouts, has been a success. “The (Route) 825 project has been phenomenal,” joining the tech park and the city and making it feel like more of a campus. There will be more involvement by the the city regarding Griffiss infrastructure in 2018, she said.

Rome Cable Complex

The expansive industrial site running along the south side of Erie Boulevard West should look drastically different this year, Izzo noted, because money for demolition to clear virtually all unused space. There was $1.8 million from the state Department of Environmental Conservation for remediation and demolition, but now the city is hoping for a $1 million state RESTORE grant it could couple with a $300,000 grant from the Rome Industrial Development Corp. to fully fund the work to open up 20 acres of development area. The city could then that to the roster of other such sites: the now cleared former Nolan building on East Dominick Street, the former Rome Turney site that is a target of demolition and smaller sites such as former Polka Dot Laundromat on Erie Boulevard West that could soon be cleaned up, Izzo noted. These shovel-ready sites will “ready use for development.”

When asked whether she’s thought about a second term, Izzo said, “That’s too early for that. My main focus has been improving the city and working very hard on things like the DRI, infrastructure, overall morale,” providing the resources for the city to provide the services Romans want and need.