Note: This press announcement is being shared on behalf of our government partners at New York State.
State to Work with Residents, Community Leaders, and Public Officials to Revitalize Syracuse’s Southwest Gateway District
Downtown Revitalization Investments Are Crucial Part of the State’s Comprehensive Strategy to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy
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Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that Syracuse will receive $10 million in funding as one of the Central New York region winners of the fifth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). As part of DRI Round 5, each of the state’s 10 regional economic development regions are being awarded $20 million, to make for a total state commitment of $200 million in funding and investments to help communities boost their post COVID-19 economies by transforming downtowns into vibrant neighborhoods.
“As an alumna of Syracuse University, I know how much the community of Syracuse has come together to create a resurgence in the city and region,” Governor Hochul said. “I’m proud to have secured this funding to improve the South Gateway District and make Syracuse a more walkable and vibrant city. Past initiatives such as the Salt City Market have led to increased business and entertainment opportunities, and this funding will help open a new chapter of opportunity and prosperity for Syracuse and Central New York.”
Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin said, “As we build back from the damages done by the pandemic, it is important we invest in all of our cities throughout the Empire State. Syracuse is a beautiful and historical city, and now thanks to the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, it will be able to expand their vibrant downtown to the South and West of the Central Business District into an urban, walkable part of the city.”
Led by the Department of State, the DRI serves as a cornerstone of the state’s economic development policy by transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant centers of activity that offer a high quality of life and attract redevelopment, businesses, jobs, and economic and housing diversity. In this round, Governor Hochul doubled funding from $100 million to $200 million and allowed each Regional Economic Development Council to decide whether to nominate two $10 million awardees or one $20 million awardee for transformative and catalytic downtown redevelopment projects.
Like past DRI rounds, each selected community will develop a strategic plan through a bottom-up, community-based planning process that articulates a vision for the revitalization of its downtown and identifies a list of signature projects that have the potential to transform the downtown and leverage further private and public investments. DRI funds will then be awarded for selected projects that have the greatest potential to jumpstart revitalization and realize the community’s vision for the downtown. Through the DRI, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will provide technical support to the awardees to assist them with including carbon-neutral principles in support of the state’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050.
Syracuse’s DRI will focus on the Southwest Gateway District. With an influx of younger residents, Syracuse seeks to expand their vibrant downtown to the South and West of the Central Business District (CBD) into an urban, walkable part of the city. Both recent investments, including the restoration of Hotel Syracuse and the opening of the Salt City Market, and investments currently in the pipeline have created momentum for the city to redevelop underutilized/vacant properties, improve public infrastructure and green spaces, and increase affordable housing. With the support of the community, which experiences high levels of concentrated poverty, the Southwest Gateway District is poised to become a growing downtown community with seamless connections to the CBD and the residential neighborhoods towards the South and West.
The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council conducted a thorough and competitive review process of proposals submitted from communities throughout the region and considered all seven criteria below before recommending Syracuse as one of the nominees:
- 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, income, gender, identity, ability, mobility and cultural background;
- 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;
- The municipality has the local capacity to manage the DRI process; and
- The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for near-term implementation with an infusion of DRI funds.
Syracuse now joins the City of Oneida as the Central New York Region’s winners of the fifth round of the DRI. Oswego, Cortland, Auburn, and Fulton were the Central New York Region’s winners in the first four DRI rounds, respectively.
Syracuse will now begin the process of developing a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown with up to $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million DRI grant. A Local Planning Committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders will lead the effort, supported by a team of private-sector experts and state planners. The Strategic Investment Plan will examine local assets and opportunities and identify economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation. The Strategic Investment Plan will guide the investment of DRI grant funds in revitalization projects that will advance the community’s vision for its downtown and that can leverage and expand upon the state’s $10 million investment. Plans for the DRI’s fifth round will be complete in 2022.
Acting Secretary of State Brendan C. Hughes said, “This Downtown Revitalization Initiative award demonstrates New York’s ongoing commitment to rebuilding our urban communities and will usher in a new era in the Salt City’s remarkable history. The DRI will build on the momentum generated by the city’s emerging downtown renaissance, bring new life to the Southwest Gateway District, and enable underserved neighborhoods in the south and west of the city to participate in the economic resurgence.”
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Hope Knight said, “The one thing that all the Downtown Revitalization Initiative winners have in common is potential. The Southwest Gateway District is an up-and-coming neighborhood of Syracuse that is well-positioned to realize its potential by creating a strategic plan that boosts its economy while igniting a positive outlook for residents, visitors, and businesses. I look forward to seeing how the investments in infrastructure and public spaces transform this neighborhood and add to the overall vitality of Syracuse.”
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is providing local leaders across the state with resources and autonomy to make decisions about the economic development projects that their communities truly need. Syracuse will no doubt benefit from this approach as the city begins renewed efforts to create a mixed-use, walkable and thriving downtown. This is an investment in Syracuse’s future that will make the city an even better place to visit and a more affordable place to call home.”
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “Through technical assistance and support, NYSERDA is excited to assist Syracuse in including sustainability and carbon-neutral concepts in their revitalization planning efforts. I am particularly pleased to see the focus on bringing existing properties into use for the future and expanding affordable housing, which supports the state’s climate and clean energy goals to reduce emissions while ensuring all New Yorkers benefit from clean energy investments.”
New York State Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, “As the former mayor of Syracuse, I couldn’t be more excited. I applaud the state’s commitment to invest in the city’s neighborhoods, encouraging economic growth and improving the lives of residents. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative will reimagine the Southwest Gateway District and help create a vibrant downtown community that will help grow the housing market, attract new visitors and entice businesses. With this DRI, the state and Governor Hochul are demonstrating their support and providing the resources to not only imagine a brighter future for Syracuse but to make these visions a reality.”
Senator Rachel May said, “The City of Syracuse has seen steady growth and smart investments over the last several years. It is wonderful news that Syracuse will receive funding from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. As we look toward building the community grid in the coming years, I look forward to seeing the projects that will help revitalize our urban core and spur further growth. Thank you to Governor Hochul and the Regional Economic Development Council for selecting Syracuse.”
Assemblymember Pamela Hunter said, “Continued investment in downtown revitalization will bring more opportunities and economic activity to our region. I have full confidence that the City of Syracuse will make the most of the Downtown Revitalization Grant to the benefit of our residents and visitors.”
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said, “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has been integral to transforming urban cores in cities across New York State, and I thank Gov. Hochul and the Regional Economic Development Council for selecting the City of Syracuse as a 2022 recipient. This award will help the City and our community and business development partners transform the Southwest Gateway to downtown. With these funds, we will extend the vibrant density of the central business district to W. Onondaga Street and South Avenue by investing in vacant or underutilized properties, improving building facades/storefronts, adding affordable housing, and enhancing public infrastructure and green spaces to attract new businesses and visitors to this area and provide new opportunities for inclusive economic growth to these important commercial corridors.”
Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Randy Wolken, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY), and Deborah Stanley, President of the State University of New York at Oswego said, “The CNYREDC is incredibly proud to support the city of Syracuse with its exciting futures. This community-driven strategic plan will benefit both residents and visitors alike. The $10 million in DRI funding will help to fuel an array of targeted, transformative projects, promoting economic growth and creating a vibrant downtown area in this wonderful community where people will want to live, work, and play.”
About the Downtown Revitalization Initiative
The Downtown Revitalization Initiative launched in 2016 to accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all ten regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for investment. Led by the Department of State, the initiative represents an unprecedented and innovative plan-to-act strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation, bringing with it an interagency team of state experts to support local government capacity in realizing their community’s vision.
In the first four years of the program, the state committed $400 million to invest in downtowns that are ripe for revitalization and have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, greater economic and housing diversity, and opportunity. The fifth round of the DRI will have an additional $200 million commitment. Participating communities are nominated by the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils based on the downtown’s potential for transformation. Each community is awarded at least $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization and leverage additional private and public investments.
Downtown redevelopment plays a critical role in the State’s nation-leading efforts to support sustainable economic development, reverse climate change, and promote climate justice by creating walkable, bikeable and transit-accessible communities that significantly reduce automobile use and greenhouse gas emissions. The DRI also supports the State’s Health Across All Policies/Age-Friendly NY initiative by creating more opportunities for outside recreation and exercise; offering safe, accessible public spaces for social interaction, which improves mental health; and expanding access to fresh, nutritious food, particularly in underserved communities. The initiative is headed by New York State Department of State. Communities receive support from private sector experts and a team of state agency staff led by the Department of State in close partnership with Empire State Development, and state Homes and Community Renewal.