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Investments in community to pay off for region, officials say

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 3/25/22

ROME — Build it and they will come. During her tenure, Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo and her administration have placed an emphasis on city projects that involve new housing and infrastructure …

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Investments in community to pay off for region, officials say


ROME — Build it and they will come.

During her tenure, Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo and her administration have placed an emphasis on city projects that involve new housing and infrastructure rehabilitation, such as road, sewer and bridge repairs.

The City Council and members of the ad hoc American Recovery Plan Act Funding Committee, to include Common Council President Stephanie Viscelli, First Ward Councilor John M. Sparace and Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers, emphasized during a recent ARPA Funding meeting, that the city is interested in concentrating efforts on projects that would address the need for more affordable housing and renovations to infrastructure.

Some projects mentioned and discussed among councilors and community members were the Liberty-James Garage, renovations to City Hall and Rome Train Station, as well as improvements to roads, sidewalks and blighted areas. The public meeting held March 16 was meant to garner the community’s input on how more than $12 million in federal ARPA monies should be allocated once received in the coming months.

The city has allocated $4 million in ARPA funding to support redevelopment of the former Woodhaven housing area on Park Drive to include upgrades to the water main and services, repair storm sewer and sanitary systems, and reconstruct disturbed road surfaces. City officials estimated the 20-year return from water and sewer fees combined with property taxes will be plus-or-minus $10 million annually.

Why are more housing developments and infrastructure improvements needed within the city? Where will the people come from who will rent or purchase apartments and homes at such locations to include Air City Lofts at Griffiss Business and Technology Park, the up-and-coming Copper City Lofts, Woodhaven Development and Delta Luxury Apartments off Merrick Road?

Answers came during a meeting hosted by Mohawk Valley EDGE Wednesday, where CenterState CEO President and CEO Robert Simpson and local EDGE members announced that CenterState, of Syracuse, and a coalition of 57 public, private, non-profit, for-profit and academic entities across Central New York and the Mohawk Valley will submit a phase two application for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, a central component of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s American Rescue Plan.

Coalition members have proposed nine distinct and interconnected projects that they say would leverage more than $143 million against a federal investment of $92 million to advance opportunities in the region’s emerging “smart systems” cluster, while integrating large-scale workforce development programs to ensure that regional growth is inclusive and equitable.

Izzo said Wednesday that Griffiss Park, specifically Rome Lab and Innovare, are “leading us into the future of quantum computing, Unmanned Aerial Systems, artificial intelligence research and machine learning. Very soon, the Mohawk Valley Fab will begin operations at their chip fab site on the SUNY Polytechnic Institute campus” in Marcy.

She said, “Our Build Back Better proposals will support the larger ecosystem through workforce housing development, state-of-the-art research facilities and growing our high-tech footprint within a 50-mile corridor to our R&D (Research and Development) partners in the Syracuse area.”

The mayor said the partnership and application is “integral” to all the things that have been going on “separately” in the Mohawk Valley and Syracuse areas — research, development and supply chains — while bringing together an “integral strategy” for growing the area’s tech ecosystem.

And besides bringing in high-tech jobs, several businesses and industries supporting these R&D “smart systems” companies will experience growth across economic sectors.

A number of Onondaga County residents are already traveling to Griffiss Park on a daily basis for their jobs, and vice versa, which has encouraged discussions on how to keep employees in the Mohawk Valley — where they can work and live, said Izzo. Through research and discussions with human resource directors representing companies located at Griffiss Park and with Mohawk Valley EDGE, the question was asked, “Why aren’t these employees making Rome and the Mohawk Valley their home?”

“We went into the lab and heard face-to-face why they’re not living here,” Izzo said. “One of the main things we heard was these employees are not living here because they wanted more modern housing” in addition to quality-of-life aspects.

Up to “70% of employees” at GBTP,” are not living here, but we’re recapturing that,” she said. “Air City Lofts is a testament” to bringing more modern housing into Rome — “apartments with modern amenities people working here could afford,” as well as commercial space.

The need for additional modern housing has also been addressed through the 64 apartments constructed at Delta Luxury Apartments, with more to come, the mayor said. There is also Copper City Lofts going up on West Dominick Street in the downtown arts district, as well as a couple other housing projects coming to fruition.

Izzo said the Downtown Revitalization Initiative has been “key” to addressing quality-of-life improvements in the city, that has included major renovations to the Capitol Theatre complex, thanks to $10 million in funding received in 2017.

“Downtown is transforming — becoming walkable blocks of restaurants and businesses. It’s an invaluable space,” the mayor said. “A lot is already happening there.”

And with more people coming into Rome to live, work and play, the city has also received input from companies about the need for infrastructure improvements.

“A lot of time was spent on discussing what was needed for businesses to relocate” to Rome, “and the quality of life for employees, where they live, and how well we take care of our water, sewers and roads” were the main focal points, Izzo said.

And those discussions “are very much structured around” guarantees “the city and county won’t drop the ball — that we’re consistently upgrading and maintaining our infrastructure,” she said.

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