Rome outdoor space begins to take shape
ROME — Work has begun on creating a public outdoor space for frequenters of downtown businesses and restaurants along West Dominick Street to have a place to sit, enjoy a bite to eat and take in outdoor entertainment and special events.
Known as the Copper City Commons — “patio” areas in front of Copperccino’s and other businesses lining West Dominick Street downtown, as well as in the rear facing Gigliotti Avenue, are now under construction, with projected completion by the end of spring.
City officials have said the reason for constructing the patio areas is to make downtown “a walkable community,” and that the city is partnering with businesses along West Dominick Street for maintenance of those areas.
The city was selected in 2017 to receive $10 million through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, and part of that funding is being used to create the public outdoor spaces downtown.
The DRI is a statewide effort to improve the urban vitality of city centers across New York. The goal is to fund priority projects that transform downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family.
The state’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) nominated 10 DRI communities after evaluating each downtown’s potential for significant transformation. The DRI is an innovative and comprehensive approach to the revitalization of downtowns.
Michael Brown, owner of Copperccino’s Coffee House at 254 W. Dominick St., and executive director of Rome Main Streets Alliance, Inc., said the patio area at the rear of the coffeehouse is already complete, and he and other local business owners are excited about how the project will attract more visitors downtown.
“Today we put a couple tables with umbrellas and chairs out at the rear patio” facing Gigliotti Avenue. “Because that area is done and we know what the front will look like” when completed, “it’s exciting, because it’s something that has not been done out there in 50 years,” said Brown. “People love seeing change and progress, and I think for businesses in this area, it will be a real shot in the arm. The landlord” for the West Dominick Street plaza, “is buying matching chairs and tables with umbrellas for the front, so it will be really pretty for passersby and visitors to town.”
The pandemic may not be over but with the beginning of spring, Brown said his business, as well as neighboring eateries and shops, have experienced an increase in foot traffic in recent weeks. Brown said he is happy that the outdoor seating areas will give people a space to feel more “comfortable.”
“Since multiple businesses have been opening here, we’ve seen an uptick, and because COVID is not as prevalent,” the coffee shop owner said. “During the construction, we want to stress to people that if they want to park in the back lot and come in that way, they can then sit outside in the back. We’re trying to get across to customers that there’s really two sides to this whole complex. We think the back may be more quiet, while the front will have more happening, especially with the jazz music. We’re trying to offer a lot to different people.”
Brown said he feels that visitors have often seen the parking spaces along West Dominick Street filled and therefore have assumed that events at the Capitol Theatre complex are filled to capacity, as well as businesses. But he wants to encourage visitors and local residents to park in the neighboring lots and not shy away from all that’s happening in the downtown neighborhood.
“Last weekend there was a big dance competition and the parking spaces were completely filled by 8 a.m...In the past, a lot of Romans got used to parking right in front of where they were going in, and as soon as the street is full, they say, ‘We’re not doing it,’ and are then going home,” said Brown. “But that is not helping local businesses at all. When the Capitol is loaded up and the street is full, people assume everything is full. We hope people will get a more urban mentality and when they see the street full, they can park in the parking lots and all they’ll need to do is walk an extra 50 yards. We’re all excited about the new offerings downtown, and that there’s lots to do anytime during the day or evening now.”
Copperccino’s has now expanded its hours to once again open at 9 a.m. As for going back to evening hours, Brown said the business will “take a temperature as time goes on” and see about opening one evening during the week.
Brown said Copperccino’s is also taking on a slight expansion with an 11-foot, by 18-foot space adjacent to the coffee shop that will be home to a gourmet shop. Known by the name, Epicureology, the shop will feature gourmet treats to include olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world, as well as “fancy” mushrooms and other speciality foods.
“Will will also have coffees and teas from around the world, as well as associated paraphernalia and art mixed in — we will continue to sell art and apparel,” he said.
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