Glens Falls wins $10 million state grant to revitalize its downtown

Glens Falls has come out on top in the competition among a dozen Capital Region downtowns for $10 mi
Centennial Circle near the Glens Falls Civic Center in February 2016.
Centennial Circle near the Glens Falls Civic Center in February 2016.

Glens Falls has come out on top in the competition among a dozen Capital Region downtowns for $10 million in state revitalization funds.

The state of New York announced Thursday that Glens Falls had been chosen as the recipient of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative award in this region. The state is giving $10 million to one downtown in each of its 10 Regional Economic Development Councils’ through the initiative.

Ed Bartholomew, president of the Warren County Economic Development Corporation, said it was great news for the city, and said the money would be tightly focused on a small area of downtown that currently stands out for the poor condition of some of the structures and the high overall vacancy rate.

South Street between Glen and Broad streets is the target zone, although the revitalization work will likely spill over onto some side streets as well. A lot of planning work has already been completed; it will continue this year and set the stage for actual physical work to start in the second quarter of 2017, Bartholomew said.

“We’re going to see quite a bit of activity later this year and next year,” he added.

The EDC is proposing a mixture of commercial space, market-rate apartments, affordable housing and a presence by Adirondack Community College.

A new centerpiece for the area would be an enclosed structure to host the farmers market year round, possibly something that could be converted to be semi-open air in nice weather. Currently, the farmers market operates in a pavilion in the warmer months, and draws 1,500 to 1,800 people on a good Saturday. Bartholomew said increasing it to a year-round operation would create a steady draw of visitors to the downtown and create a venue that could be used for other purposes as well, such as entertainment and community education.

Commenting Thursday on Glens Falls’ victory in the drive for the $10 million grant, Bartholomew said the city has been working on its downtown for a while, and as part of that process, had drawn up plans for what it like to do if it had the money. It was able to present a good proposal to the state as a result.

A key part of this was a HUD grant three years ago that let the city outline a vision for its downtown and a strategy for achieving that vision.

“We kept refining our plan for the downtown area,” Bartholomew said. “I think we put together a very strong application.”

He noted that 10 other cities and one village in the Capital Region applied for the grant.

Bartholomew said the target zone in Glens Falls is ripe for revitalization: “We took an area that was 92 percent vacant, where the buildings were deteriorating,” he said.

Other uses of the money in Glens Falls are expected to include creating a low-interest revolving loan fund to help existing businesses expand; recruiting new businesses to the area; and acquiring vacant land or small buildings to create surface parking and small urban parks.

Bartholomew said another benefit of the homework the city did in recent years is that there should be a faster review process by the state Department of State, which is overseeing the program.

“We don’t need to start from scratch,” he said. “Because we are further ahead than other communities, our review will be quicker.”

The state for weeks has been passing out ceremonial checks as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Glens Falls is one of the last. Others announced so far include Oneonta, Oswego, Westbury, Elmira, Geneva, Middletown, Plattsburgh and the downtown area of the Jamaica neighborhood in New York City.

Reach business editor John Cropley at 395-3104, [email protected] or @cropjohn on Twitter.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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