Elmira Receives $10M in Downtown Revitalization Initiative Funds

Posted July 7, 2016

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that Downtown Elmira was selected as the winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in the Southern Tier. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative, first laid out in the Governor’s 2016 State of the State address, marks a comprehensive plan to transform local neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live and work. The plan aligns with “Southern Tier Soaring” – the region’s successful Upstate Revitalization Initiative blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development.

The winner was selected as part of a competitive process by the state’s Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council and will receive $10 million in state funding to revitalize the local neighborhood and generate new opportunities for long-term growth and prosperity. The award will include up to $300,000 in planning funds for private sector experts to work with a local planning committee to draft a Strategic Investment Plan that will identify specific economic development, transportation, and housing and community projects. The grant is part of a $100 million effort to improve the urban vitality of city centers across the state. Plans will be completed by early 2017. 

“Over the past six years, our Regional Councils have played an integral role in generating economic opportunity in communities across the state,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative will build on that momentum by investing in local assets to attract jobs, private investment and transform downtown areas into vibrant, diverse and economically active hubs. This investment will build on Elmira’s thriving health care industry and its academic and cultural vigor to continue its economic renaissance for generations to come.” 

“Governor Cuomo's unprecedented Downtown Revitalization Initiative acknowledges that thriving urban centers are key to changing attitudes and bringing people back to our communities," said Regional Economic Development Chair Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “I have seen first-hand how revitalizing one downtown can be transformative for an entire region. With support from the Regional Council, that's exactly what we expect will happen here.”

The City of Elmira 

Strategically located between major commercial corridors, Elmira’s compact and walkable downtown is well positioned to become an active, desirable and diverse college community. Recent development has catered to the needs of new residents attracted by the recent growth of the region’s health care industry and impending college expansions. Under the DRI, Elmira will focus on attracting new businesses and skilled workers, strengthening arts and cultural attractions, expanding housing options for all income levels, and developing amenities to support and enhance downtown living and quality of life. The plan will include a greater variety of retail and housing, improving the aesthetics of downtown and capitalizing on natural assets such as the Chemung River.

Downtown Revitalization Initiative 

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is chaired by former New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales, along with a team of planners from the Department of State and private sector experts, with support from Empire State Development, the Division of Homes and Community Renewal, and other state agencies. 

Each Regional Council weighed seven criteria in selecting their nominee:

1) The targeted neighborhood should be compact and well-defined.
2) The downtown, or its center, should be of a size sufficient to support an active, year-round downtown and should have a sizeable existing or increasing population within easy reach for whom this would be the primary downtown.
3) The downtown should capitalize on prior, and catalyze future, private and public investment in the neighborhood and surrounding areas.
4) There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable
5) The downtown must contain properties or characteristics that contribute or that could contribute, if enhanced, to the attractiveness and livability of the downtown, including the presence of developable mixed-use spaces, housing at different levels of affordability and type, commercial and retail main street businesses, including healthy and affordable food markets, walkability and bikeability, and public parks and gathering spaces
6) The downtown should contain or articulate how it can create policies that enhance quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes, complete streets plans, or transit-oriented development; and
7) Local and community support must exist for revitalization of the downtown. There must be a commitment among local leaders and stakeholders to build and implement a strategic investment plan for the downtown.

“It was a pleasure working with all of the Regional Economic Development Councils throughout this community-driven process,” said Cesar A. Perales, Chair of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. “The REDC members had a very difficult task in making their selections among the many strong candidates in each region. My thanks to the REDCs and my congratulations to the winning communities.”

Senator Tom O'Mara said, “As we continue to build foundations for a stronger future for the Southern Tier region, this state investment of $10 million in the city of Elmira will continue to help move the city forward, revitalize the downtown for businesses and residents, and encourage a transformation that will benefit the entire region. I look forward to continue building on this foundation of renewal and encouraging more and more economic and community development progress in the future."

Mayor Daniel Mandell said, “Today is a great day for the city of Elmira, and we thank Governor Cuomo and the Regional Economic Development Council for the opportunity to further develop our downtown area. This $10 million will help us build on what makes this city so special by investing in our dynamic and lively downtown community and transforming it into an attractive destination for residents, businesses, and college students. I thank Governor Cuomo for making this possible and look forward to what we will achieve moving forward.”

County Executive Santulli said, “From the Chemung River, to our educational and cultural institutions, Chemung County is home to numerous assets that comprise this region’s dynamic charm. With $10 million to revitalize downtown Elmira, we now have the opportunity to revitalize the heart of Chemung County and ensure it remains a viable generator of economic growth for the entire Southern Tier. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is a strong display of Governor Cuomo’s commitment to economic growth across the state and I applaud him for his commitment.” 

Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair Tom Tranter said,“Under Governor Cuomo, New York State has focused on the upstate economy like a laser beam and the results are showing. Today we have the opportunity to build on the progress we’ve made through the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council and the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and focus on a major priority of the Southern Tier – investing in Elmira’s downtown region. This $10 million is a testament to the work we’ve done to turn the Southern Tier around and I look forward to working with the Governor, state and local partners to continue moving this region forward.”

For the original press release, please visit www.governor.ny.gov/news

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