LOWVILLE — The small county seat of a small county has a big grasp on marketing itself this year in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative competition.
“Lowville isn’t just a choice. It’s the natural choice,” it says.
The village embraced technology to make that point including a short video featuring project owners, officials and residents, as well as aerial shots that give a heady perspective on the downtown area and the outlying natural beauty.
“I think we had the best application in the region this year,” said county Planning Department Director Casandra Buell, echoed by Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche.
The two, along with a group that included Mayor Joseph Beagle and some project sponsors, were the first this year to give their presentation to the state Regional Economic Development Council decision-makers.
“Now we’re at the point where we just sit back and wait to hear from them,” Mr. Beagle said. “We’re hoping. It could really do a lot for downtown.”
Mrs. Buell and Mr. Beagle agreed that there seemed to be more questions asked during their 2019 presentation and neither one could decide if that was a good or bad sign.
“They had a couple of questions on our bigger projects (Double Play Community Center and Hand in Hand Childcare) but we were able to answer all of those,” Mr. Beagle said. “But they didn’t ask too much this time.”
This year’s application used the overarching framework for the village’s development from their 2019 application anchored by the same larger projects but filled out with a number of projects involving local businesses, many of which are already starting in small steps, focused on expanding those business and revitalizing historical structures.
These projects were balanced with larger “big picture” projects sponsored by the county, the various economic development agencies under the Naturally Lewis banner and the village itself.
The four areas of focus for the village remain economic development, tourism, quality of life and recreation — but the footprint included in the project is now from the traffic “Y” at North State Street to the same on South State Street where state Routes 12 and 26 diverge.
There are 26 projects included in the application rather than the 19 projects in 2019, 11 of which are new. Most of the projects that have been carried over are different now, being that some of the activities and goals have already been accomplished with other funding sources.
Skewed Brewing, Elements Day Spa, Tug Hill Roasters, the Town Hall Theatre, The Judge’s Quarters B&B, The 1812 House B&B, the Lowville Farmer’s Co-Op and the PB&J Cafe with Lloyd’s of Lowville all proposed projects to either repair or expand and improve their facilities, all with an element that will at the same time improve the streetscapes of the village.
Some proposed projects, like those for the Lewis County Historical Society and the American Legion, were focused entirely on revitalizing the key historical structures.
Other businesses and property owners including National Abstract; the Trading Post building, which was most recently a furniture store until 2019; the upper floors of the Jreck Subs and Cafe Z buildings; and The Bateman House apartments are each projects that are slated to improve the facade of the buildings while also creating upgraded living and office spaces in the upper floors.
Newly included in the proposal is a county-sponsored project that involves taking beautification to the wall by hiring artists to paint murals on some of the blank building-sides throughout the village.
“These murals will enhance placemaking and strengthen Lowville’s identity by celebrating its history and future, creating recognizable landmarks on iconic downtown buildings, and beautifying the streetscape,” the application text says.
Local artists will be given preference for commissions.
The Lowville Commons owned by North Country Transitional Living Services, is the focus of a $2 million project that would consolidate TLS along with other service providers like The Arc, Mountainview Prevention Services and the Credo Community Center, all in one complex to be known as the Community Services Hub.
The county Industrial Development Agency and county development corporation have again included their project to build a new structure that will contain their offices on the ground floor with mixed-use office and “makers” space in the above floors in addition to the project to create a trailhead gateway and parking area at the start of the county snowmobile trail that comes into the village.
Improvements to Veterans Park in the middle of the village; a welcome center; harnessing “Complete Streets” practices to make the village more accessible for walkers and bicycle riders; the rails and trails project creating a multi-use trail along the railroad track; along with Double Play and the Hand in Hand Childcare annex were again the larger projects in the application.
Handicap accessibility and “green” solutions from electrical car charging stations and rooftop solar panels to eco-HVAC systems and energy saving replacement windows, were common threads through most of the proposals in the application.
Mr. Beagle said it is not clear when they can expect an answer because applications are usually due in the spring, not in September.
As part of the fifth anniversary of the multi-million-dollar grant competition, each of the 10 regions will have $20 million to grant in either two grants of $10 million — the normal award amount — or in one $20 million award.
“There’s more money out there this year, so hopefully they’ll spread it out for the north country with two awards,” Mr. Beagle said. “You really had to have a super project to go after the $20 million. We just felt we’d be happy to get the $10 million. No reason to be greedy.”