With support from the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce and an eye on turning a former eyesore into a thriving development, members of the Rome Common Council unanimously approved a resolution on Wednesday to sell a portion of the former Wright Park Manor and Woodhaven properties to Rome Industrial Development Corporation.
Prior to the council meeting — held via livestream and Webex audio — Rome Area Chamber of Commerce President William K. Guglielmo touted the move during a public hearing, indicating chamber support of the sale, part of the Rethink Woodhaven Revitalization Plan. The redevelopment project, if successful, would mean not only additional housing options available in the city but also opportunities for local business growth and development.
“The Board of Directors of the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce recommends your approval of the proposed sale of a portion of property formerly known as Wright Park Manor and Woodhaven to the Rome Industrial Development Corporation to facilitate redevelopment of the site by conveying the land to developers who plan to develop it into new residential and mixed- use units,” said Guglielmo in a written statement presented to the council. “Doing so will be in line with the community’s desire to create a new neighborhood of modern, single-family housing located in close proximity to Mohawk Valley Community College and Griffiss Business and Technology Park. The development of the 84 acres will encourage residential growth, increase Rome’s property tax base, and increase the possibility of more commercial activity, thereby improving the potential for job growth and local spending.”
Established in 1959, the RIDC has considerable experience in partnering with government, non-profit organizations and private businesses to form unique partnerships that have resulted in the strengthening the industrial and commercial sectors in Rome.
RIDC established the West Rome Industrial Park, played a major role in Rome’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and waterfront development, and provided important services for such firms as Revere Copper, Walmart, Owl Wire, Cold Point, Varflex, Kris-Tech and others during the past 60 years, Guglielmo said.
“The chamber fully supports the sale of land to RIDC as doing so will begin the process of revitalizing the neighborhood, enhancing the visibility of MVCC, and supporting job growth at Griffiss,” he concluded.
Prior to the council’s vote, Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers said members have had several meetings on the project with RIDC and described the redevelopment plan as an “excellent project” and that the developers “already have a track record of performance with the city,” adding that the redevelopment of the site was “a long time in coming.”
“Not too many cities have the opportunity to completely redevelop a neighborhood, so this is an exciting project and I’m happy to support that,” said Rogers.
The councilor then requested that an amendment be made to the ordinance before approval, consenting that if there were to be any amendments or changes to the contract between the city and RIDC, that it would need to go before the council for a vote first.
Council members unanimously approved the motion for an amendment, with unanimous approval of the ordinance following.
As part of the Rethink Woodhaven Revitalization Plan of 2018, the approximately 100-acre parcel bound on one side by Floyd Avenue across from MVCC’s Rome campus and another by Park Drive, would include an “overarching” theme of mixed residential and commercial uses, including multiple housing options that could include senior living.
The city owns the entire area after a failed revitalization attempt by private developers. The complexes primarily housed airmen and their families during the era of Griffiss Air Force Base. The flying mission ended in 1995 following a 1993 Base Realignment Closure Commission decision.
The city had partnered with Mohawk Valley EDGE and Rome Industrial Development Corp. to begin the master planning and environmental review process for the property.
In other business:
• City Treasurer David C. Nolan recommended that Ordinance No. 9441 requesting the authorization to issue an additional $200,000 in serial bonds to pay the costs of improvements to the city sewer system be withdrawn for consideration by the council.
• Council President Stephanie Viscelli said the Common Council would welcome 16 individuals, with possible accommodations made for couples who attend together, to the next meeting on Wednesday, May 26 in council chambers at City Hall. There will be temperature checks, a community survey and those who think they may be sick or are feeling ill are asked to stay home. Meetings will also continue to be broadcast via livestream and available on Webex audio, with a link found on the council’s webpage.
“Since we have some people participating via Webex I think we should still be able to have some public speakers” participate in that format, “if they are unable to come to City Hall,” said Viscelli. “But if you do that, we ask that you register with the City Clerk to make sure you have no technology issues in getting on.”
Anyone with questions can call Viscelli or the City Clerk’s Office.
• The council voted unanimously to accept a donation of $1,200 from Adirondack Bank for the Rome Shines On Beautification Award program.
“I would like to say, ‘thank you,’ to Adirondack Bank for its financial support for the Rome Shines Program,” said Councilor Rogers, adding that the program was started in 2019 by her and Viscelli, but was postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19.
While previously some local small businesses would donate gift cards for the program, the Adirondack Bank donation alleviates that burden during a time when several businesses continue to struggle, she said.
We “felt a lot are struggling due to the pandemic so Adirondack Bank will fund all of those cards to help small businesses,” Rogers added.
The council will give away the first Rome Shines On award of the year at the next council meeting on May 26.
• The council voted unanimously to accept a donation of $2,291 for the city to purchase American flags for deceased veterans and grave site markers.
• Council members authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with the Town of Verona regarding snow plowing and roadside mowing for a period of three years where Rome will plow 2,024 feet of Zingerline Road and 6,082 feet of Heelpath Road, while Verona will plow and mow a section of Brown Road from the town line to Greenway-New London Road, for a distance of about 4,000 feet.
• A motion for unanimous consent was made and carried for the issuance of $303,000 in city bonds to finance the cost for various capital projects including the Franklyn Field Clubhouse; return sludge pumps for wastewater as part of the city sewer system; pumps at the Merrick Road Pumping Station for wastewater; Boyd Dam roof replacement; traffic lights and intersection control panels; demolition of the municipally-owned building at 1333 E. Dominick St. to include environmental remediation; and demolition of the municipally-owned building at 701 Lawrence St. including environmental remediation.