The mayor's 2019 State of the City address Tuesday evening focused on economic development, especially the city's $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.
"Economic development remains our top priority," Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said in her third State of the City address in her fourth year in office. "The $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative is the cornerstone of that strategy. Work has begun to transform the downtown area into a more vibrant, cohesive centerpiece with an emphasis on the arts and culture."
Demolition of the Liberty-George parking garage, a DRI project, began early last month " and today, almost the entire structure has been leveled to the ground," the mayor said.
"This clears the way for site redevelopment inculding an interim public parking surface with lighting and landscaping," and eventually, the city plans to build a "multiple story apartment buidling."
Its sister, the Liberty-James garage, "will also undergo extensive renovation through the DRI as it becomes the main parking facility for the downtown area," Izzo said.
The mayor touted the Capitol Theatre and the REACH Center, slated to receive $2.5 million and $250,000 in DRI funding respectively, as mainstays of the growing downtown arts district.
"The Kearney Group, aided by a $500,000 DRI incentive, will embark on the $16 million Copper City Lofts, providing 68 units of loft style apartments with an emphasis on attrcting those with a background in arts and culture to live in the burgeoning dowtown arts corridor," Izzo continued, urging the city "imagine a living space" where artists could collaborate "while bringing new energy to our community."
Still other DRI projects are under design. The mayor said plans for City Hall and the Griffo Green — to include public bathrooms and an ice skating rink in the winter months — are almost complete.
"The goal is for the city green to host many wonderfui quality-of-life activities focused in the downtown corridor," she said.
She said she hopes to complete the CENTRO bus transfer station on West Liberty Street by Novemeber, in time for next winter. That project will receive $400,000 in DRI money.
Wayfinding signage and streetscape improvements are planned, as well. The former is a DRI project, while the latter will be funded through a $1.1 million state Department of Transportation TAP grant, and will "produce pedestrian and streetscape enhancements along Erie Boulevard and from James Street to Madison Street including intersection safety upgrades and strengthened pedestrian connections."
Veterans and Gansevoort parks on North James Street will undergo "design enhancements," the mayor said.
"The design team will take into account the site sensitivities when laying out design options, which will ultimately require the sign off from New York State (State Historic Preservation Office) before any work can commence."
In northeast Rome, along upper Floyd Avenue and into Griffiss Park, City Hall continues to take steps toward redevelopment.
"We believe this Floyd Avenue/Route 825 corridor will become our next large development area incorporating an urban setting near Stewart's on the former Building 240 site and more of a neighborhood setting along the front 30 acres on Floyd Avenue and the remaining 60 plus acres behind on Park Drive," she said.
The YMCA's planned relocation to the area has piqued developers' interests, the mayor said. "We were successful in receiving very good proposals for both the B240 and Woodhaven sites. Announcements concerning the future development of these tow areas will come soon."
Copper wire processor Atom29 is redeveloping 1212 East Dominick, the mayor said, and 1333 East Dominick is being marketed to developers presently.
Housing developments continue to progress. The $14.5 million interior and exterior renovations to Colonial I on St. Peter's Ave. is still underway, the DeWitt Clinton apartments in south Rome are on track for a spring 2020 occupancy.
"With the new DeWitt Clinton Apartments in mind, the first public project of the recently completed $780,000 (Department of State) neighborhood wide impovement design grant coined as 'Waterfront Village' is the South James Street Overlook. This $600,000 scenic overlook trail enhancement project will begin the process of extending our improvements westerly along the canal."
Elsewhere in the city's south side, the Erie Boulevard Byrne Dairy is slated for a June opening, and owner Bowers Development is marketing the former Rome Turney site, pending an EPA cleanup of the property.
Rome Cable Complex 4 will be remediated and demolished through state Department of Environmental Conservation funding, the mayor said. The administration hopes to foster an industrial park in the zone, beginning with air conditioning manufacturer Cold Point's relocation to the site from their current west Rome plant through $900,000 in DRI funds.
The former Polka Dot Laundry building on Erie Boulevard West will begin as soon as Monday, the mayor said.
Streetscape improvements continue on West Dominick Street, the mayor said, where $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding was used to reconstruct sidewalks on the 400-600 blocks.
On the 300 block, a $700,000 project "with a public art component to kick-off the public support of the emerging arts district" is underway."
"This is an important connecting block to downtown from the west. Improvements will include green infrastructure drainage, dedicated bike lanes, enhanced pedestrian crossings and landscaping," she explained.
Abatement at the former Rose Hospital facility has begun to make way for the new Hannaford's grocery store, the mayor said.
Griffiss continues to draw business to the area — Assured Information Security (AIS) was awarded a $96.3 million Virtualized Intelligence Platform Engineering and Research (VIPER) contract this week, and a $21 million renovation to the County Airport runway is in progress, Izzo said.
Griffiss has also been added to the city's annual streets maintenance program, making it eligible for the $1 to $3 million the city spends yearly on road upkeep.
The mayor touted $11,910,300 in grants received for the Wastewater Treatment Plant "for solids handling, ultraviolet disinfection, interceptor sewer upgrads and digester improvements. At the Water Filtration Plant, $3 million in grant funding was secured "to offeset the cost of ultraviolet dinsinfection, which will be operational this month," meeting the federally mandated May 2019 deadline, the mayor said.
Talks with Verona to sell the town water are still ongoing, she said, and are contigent on Verona "finalizing their grant funding requests."
A $500,000 state grant for structural repairs and elevator replacement at the Train Station was secured last year, she said, and "more permanent walkway solutions are being studied" to replace the temporary walkway erected after some ceiling collapsed last summer.
In Public Works, a $110,000 grant was secured to "keep our DPW garage operational during a power outage," and $4.7 million was received from the state to repair bridges on Floyd Avenue, Railroad Street, Seifert Road and Dewey Road.
In Parks and Recreation, restrooms and a pavilion were built at Haselton, a fitness trail at Pinti was restored, and LED floor lighting was installed at Kennedy Arena, with "warming areas" to come.
The Police Department received grants for a mobile command unit, a service dog and vehicle, license plate readers, video recording equipment, interrogation room renovations, traffic services, child passenger safety, and protective equipment, the mayor noted.
The Fire Department secured $376,955 in funding in the last year for "turnout gear" and for "an ATV equipped for EMS calls on our trail system," the mayor said.
The HAZMAT/Animal Control facility on Black River Boulevard received a new roof, and will receive $50,000 in in new siding and windows "later this spring or summer."
The administration has also been able to put more foreclosed properties back on the tax rolls, the mayor said.
"In three years, we have returned $630,000 worth of foreclosed property back to the tax rolls through the Real Property Committee, and have demolished 19 unites helping neighborhoods control blight, restore parking options and open up green space," she said.
The sidewalk reimbursement program for homeowners will increase its payout again this year, as the mayor said she will ask the council to "approve a second round of sidewalk incentive with the city underwriting 75 percent of the replacement cost."
Walks with the Mayor will return on Monday and Tuesday, June 4 aand 5, and will continue through August, she said.
"When we began this journey a few years ago, we inherited a city government whose anticipated budgeted revenue clearly did not meet its expenses as well as a feeling of general angst throughout our government and community. The circumstances were so complicated that I did not feel comfortable offering a state of our city until we got a better handle on the situation through the budget process," Mayor Izzo said.
Now, the city's finances are stable — the mayor said an audit of the 2018 budget "resulted in a $1.1 million surplus" and the city's total fund balance has grown by $2,316,848.
"We have made tremendous strides in the last few years, and 2019 will hold more successes," Izzo said.