City outlines plans, projects for $10M grant

Published Sep 21, 2017 at 4:10pm

When the city was approved for the $10 million first prize from the state for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), it was for a group of projects the city is proposing for the near future.

First, there’s the physical boundaries the city has outlined for where its projects will take place. The “downtown” as defined for this initiative is bound by Black River Boulevard on the east side and Madison Street on the west side. The southern boundary is the railroad track system that runs somewhat parallel to Erie Boulevard as it bends to the northern boundary is a zig zag starting on Court Street west to Park Street and further west to Liberty Street.

It includes such key sites as the Capitol Theatre, the 28,000 square foot Rome Entrepreneur, Arts, Culture, and History (REACH) Center and Centro’s Rome hub for the public bus service. It includes Fort Stanwix National Monument, the current City Hall and the Old City Hall building. It includes several historic churches and the Rome Historical Society. It includes both of the city’s indoor parking garages.

The projects listed below include total costs, not just the money secured through the DRI. The state money can help leverage more funding from other sources, the city noted.

“This is not a $10 million blank check,” the mayor noted. The projects are not negotiable, she said, as Rome won because of a plan with identified projects. She outlined a “very aggressive timeframe.” She said the Department of State wants to see action quickly, with contracts out by March or April. 

Here are more details on the priority projects the city’s proposal noted were key for 2018-2020:

Liberty-George Parking Garage transformation (2019). The project involves demolition of a 40-year-old parking structure on a two-acre site and replacing with modern, sustainably-designed, mixed-income apartments. The garage is “structurally unsound” and
occupies “valuable space.” The city, in collaboration with a private developer, has initiated plans for demolition of the garage to prepare for construction of mixed income apartments and public parking. Cost: $14 million, about $2.1 million of which would be from DRI.

Capitol Theatre (2019). The theater’s Master Plan includes enclosing an access corridor to reconnect the three distinct structures for seamless programming and events throughout the facility. It also includes the fit out of a black box theater and a backstage access management plan that will enhance meeting and event space. The addition of these ancillary spaces to the theater will be structured around the successful structure of Proctors Theater. Cost: $8.7 million, of which $2.5 million would likely come from DRI.

City Green and City Hall Enhancement (2018). The project capitalizes on the centrally-located, programmable Griffo Green by constructing an outdoor skating rink and infrastructure for winter festivals to anchor the four-season destination. The upgrades to City Hall will include a new entry atrium that is controlled and safe as well as ADA-compliant and environmentally sustainable. Cost: $3 million, of which $1.6 million in DRI money is earmarked.

Liberty-James Parking Garage upgrades (2018). Installation of automated access and pay station to accommodate 24-hour access for new residents, including façade improvements to meet form-based aesthetic. Cost: $250,000, $200,000 of which would be from DRI.

West Dominick Infill Development site work (2018). Engineering and archaeological field work to facilitate infill development of mixed use development with Erie Boulevard-level parking. The target area includes three main underutilized lots. Cost: $250,000, $200,000 of which would be from DRI.

City Center Apartments. This longtime vacant structure is best known for the mural that covers its west side, but “has contributed to the blight within the area.” This structure will be completely renovated and include upper floor apartment units and a first floor meeting space. Cost: $2.5 million. The amount of DRI funds that would go to this project has yet to be estimated.

Arts-based Innovation Hot Spot at the REACH Center (2018). Build-out of 10,000 square feet of co-working space for arts-based entrepreneurs, including a new Main Streets Café and Craft Beverage Exchange to feature locally roasted coffee, craft beverages, local bread and sweets and craft foods from Utica, Rome and the Mohawk Valley. Cost: $500,000, $200,000 of which would be from DRI.

Streetscape improvements and trail connectivity at Erie Boulevard and James Street and at Erie and George Street (2018-19). Crosswalks, traffic calming, gateway features, trail connections, signals to increase commerce across Erie Boulevard and connect downtown more effectively to underserved residential neighborhoods. Cost: $400,000, $100,000 of which would be from DRI.

Centro hub (2019-20). Centro is located in the Liberty George garage. Centro and Rome have committed to collaborate on a definitive relocation and facilities plan for the bus terminal to a 2,500 square foot energy-efficient, safe, universally accessible and central location. The initial plan showed the proposed location for the new hub in the southeast corner retail space of Freedom Plaza, but the city and Centro are still discussing several options. Cost: $2 million, with about $500,000 coming from DRI.

Zion Church historic preservation and community center (2018-19). Rome Main Street Alliance s partnering with the church in order to develop the vestry building and former school into a centralized service hub for non-profits with a focus on community outreach and interface. This project would include historic preservation, co-working space fit-out and shelter build-out. Cost: $1 million. ($300K in DRI)

The city had to form a local planning committee to oversee the project. It will consist of Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo, Second Ward Councilor John B. Mortise, Third Ward Councilor Kimberly A. Rogers, Sixth Ward Councilor Riccardo D. Dursi, Police Chief Kevin C. Beach, Centro Chief Executive Officer Richard Lee, Fort Stanwix Superintendent Frank Barrows, Historical Society Executive Director Megan Postol, Rome Main Streets Alliance Executive Director Michael Brown, Capitol Executive Director Art Pierce, Diane Shoemaker of the REACH Center, The Foundation Development & Community Investment Coordinator Morgan Mielnicki, Jim DiBella of DiBella’s Fancy Fruits and Matt Varughese, developer for Old City Hall.