Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Utica’s Downtown Genesee Street area will receive $10 million in funding as the Mohawk Valley’s winner of the fourth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. As in the first three rounds of the DRI, one municipality from each of the state’s 10 regional economic development regions is selected as a $10 million winner, marking another overall state goal to target $100 million in funding and investments to help communities boost their economies by transforming downtowns into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family.
Genesee Street, Utica’s primary commercial corridor, has emerged as a hub for growing finance, hospitality, and arts and cultural offerings and serves as the seat of the City and Oneida County government and civic affairs. Previous efforts to enhance the area’s pedestrian and cyclist amenities, leverage central and historic anchor buildings, promote inclusivity, and stimulate the growth of new businesses have rendered the increasingly young and diverse neighborhood ready for catalytic DRI investment. Adopting a people-centric creative placemaking approach, Utica will leverage the DRI support to build a downtown that unites the community, attracts new residents and visitors, and stimulates economic investment. Strategies supporting the community vision for “Connecting People, Place, and Purpose” include activating public spaces, recruiting entrepreneurs, revitalizing historic or vacant buildings, advancing multimodal transit efforts, and developing mixed-use housing options.
The Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC) went through a competitive review process of proposals from communities throughout the region and considered all seven criteria below before recommending Utica as its nominee for winner:
- The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
- The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
- 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;
- The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;
- The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
- The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan; and
- The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.
Utica’s fourth-round DRI win entitles the city to receive $10 million in state funding and investments to revitalize its downtown neighborhoods and generate new opportunities for long-term growth. Utica now joins the Cities of Oneonta, Rome and Amsterdam, which were the Mohawk Valley’s winners in the first three DRI rounds, respectively.