LOWVILLE — A rally from local business owners, developers and community members with “transformative opportunities” for the downtown area caused the number of projects included in the village’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative application to swell from 11 to 19 during the final week of application preparation.
The village is among the north country applicants for the $10 million grant award in the initiative’s fourth annual cycle.
While discussions about entering the funding race started some months ago, the final decision left less than a month to consult members of the community, local businesses, developers and hire a specialist to help with the application.
“This was definitely a condensed process. It was a month of chaos but good chaos,” village Mayor Joseph Beagle said, “It gave people the chance to say what they wanted without overthinking what was possible.”
Consultants Tamara Burk and Elizabeth King of Bergmann, Rochester worked with the local committee composed of county Senior Planner Casandra Buell, Mayor Beagle, County Manager Ryan Piche, the county Industrial Development Agency, the Chamber of Commerce and the county Board of Legislators Chairman Lawrence Dolhof to meet the May 31 deadline.
While Mr. Beagle said there were many more than 19 projects and ideas that arose from the targeted and public meetings and open calls for project submissions during process, the committee had to be strategic about those ultimately chosen. “We had to quickly look at, ‘This is what we have, these are our opportunities to catalyze, and this is how we build up from there,” Mr. Beagle said, “But right now, it’s all concepts. A new process begins if we get the grant and then the Regional Economic Development Council will decide what’s next.”
The projects in the application are referred to as “transformative opportunities” for the village and were organized into four main categories: economic development, tourism, quality of life and recreation.
A number of new businesses are interested in capitalizing on the DRI opportunity to boost their investments including the Downtown Brewery, Tug Hill Artisan Coffee Roasters and Mullin’s Artisan Food market, as are existing businesses including Cafe Z, Tony Harper’s, the Judge’s Quarter’s Bed and Breakfast and the Town Hall Theater.
The application also calls for the establishment of a $600,000 “downtown grant fund” that would allow other existing local businesses and property owners in the downtown commercial corridors to make various improvements to their buildings.
“By strategically investing in the community in this way, the village hopes to spur development, catalyze investment and improve the economic viability of downtown.”
Two of the “last minute” opportunities that made it into the application that Mr. Beagle and Ms. Buell said they believe will be very positive for the community included the splash pad at Veteran’s Park in the center of the village and Hand in Hand Childcare Center opening a downtown branch near a new housing project also proposed in the application.
In all four categories combined, the 19 projects would drive almost $28 million worth of investment, tripling the DRI grant’s impact, and create at least 65 new jobs.
If Lowville doesn’t win this year, Mr. Beagle said, the village will try again next year, but that doesn’t mean all of the proposed projects will necessarily have to wait.
“I feel the momentum needs to move forward,” Mr. Beagle said,
The Rails and Trails project that would create a walking and bicycling path with a rail bike element from Kraft-Heinz to the Lewis County JCC Education Center on Maple Ridge along the railroad tracks is one Mr. Beagle feels has good support from the public and county level interest making it likely to start moving ahead.
“We need to think outside the box to make sure young people come back to the area and new people move here, too, to make sure the village and the economy stays strong.”
To view Lowville’s DRI application, go to http://wdt.me/VMqDpt.