The City of Rome and project consultant Bergmann Associates will host a public briefing for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, at the REACH Center, 209 W. Dominick St.
There will be a presentation highlighting the Strategic Investment Plan that defines prioritized projects to be submitted to New York State for approval and funding. The city is getting a total of $10 million for the initiative.
The plan was developed by the Local Planning Committee. It narrowed down a list of possible projects, noting some that will not get DRI funding but will be pursued separately and with other funding.
The public briefing will be held a few hours after the final Local Planning Committee meeting at 3:30p.m. at the REACH Center. The committee meetings are open to the public for observation.
An online survey and comment form, project updates and connected planning project documents can be found at www.RomeRises.com.
Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo, co-chair of the local committee, said the especially public process has “been very good. If you look at the comments to the website as well as the comments....it pretty much lines up with the projects that were identified.” It is, she noted, consistent with Brownfield Opportunity Area engagement meeting held by the city at the Capitol Theatre a year ago.
The input has been valuable, Izzo said. “It’s been good for us because we’ve been talking about downtown in Rome for 40 years. This time around we have a chance to almost reinvent it, so that it will progress itself into the next decade. It’s gratifying that what people think we need down here is what people want. The cream is rising to the top.” Rome needs more residency downtown, as well as amenities to draw people and updates to aging buildings and infrastructure, she said.
The plan has gone through some extensive changes, including a late adjustment to the western boundary and the related addition of a business relocation. Izzo said the latest iteration of the plan is something that can improve downtown. She noted that two significant projects are the renovations at the Capitol and new housing downtown, which together will bring “significant change.”
Izzo also said she’s pleased with the open meetings and updates to the website as approved by the state. “I can’t think of a more informative process,” she said. She noted that it has been helpful to communicate to the public that the plan that initially won the city the $10 million grant has been the basis for the project, something the city has been adjusting. “The state does not just write a blank check. You have to justify these projects.”
The city must submit its Strategic Investment Plan for state approval by the end of the month.
The most recent meeting of the committee featured several revisions to the proposal.
The group agreed on changing the boundaries of the downtown area where the projects will be included in order to incorporate the former Rome Cable site along Erie Boulevard West. A new proposal was announced at that meeting for a company to relocate within Rome to that site. The company was noted named at that time. The $5.5 million project would get $900,000 in DRI funds, according to the plan the committee voted to support.
The committee also supported using DRI funding for a connectivity project to connect the site to downtown. The committee voted to put this project on the list of priority projects as well, earmarking $1 million as how much would be requested in DRI funds.
The Liberty-George parking garage that will be demolished with $2.5 million in DRI funds was revised to remove use of $1 million of the DRI funds for a housing project there. A housing study of the initial 54-unit market rate housing complex there showed it would not be feasible. Instead, the study found that 26 to 34 units would be more likely to succeed. It will be studied further, and is not currently on the DRI funding list.
The other priority projects for DRI funds are: the Capitol Theatre, mixed use development at 183 W. Dominick St., enhancements at City Hall, upgrades to the Liberty-James parking garage, an adaptive reuse and business fund, the REACH center, a downtown Centro transportation center, a way finding system and a public art fund.
Izzo also noted that naming Mohawk Valley EDGE President Steven J. DiMeo as her co-chair on the committee was another chance to improve the relationship between the city and the group that been so focused on the Griffiss Business and Technology Park. “We chose Steve and EDGE because they were working with the city. They have a good understanding about what we’re trying to achieve. Our working relationship with EDGE is very, very good. There are no projects where we aren’t working hand-in-hand no matter where they are in the city.”