SCHENECTADY — Schenectady won big on Tuesday, securing a competitive $10 million state economic development award.
What happens now?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement sets in motion a fast-moving series of events before the city delivers a list of finalized projects to the state by March.
Metroplex Development Authority will act as the lead administrator for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), and the effort will be guided by a “Local Planning Committee,” or LPC, a group of municipal representatives, community leaders and other stakeholders.
That core group will be supported by a team of private sector experts, state planners and a consultant team hired by the state.
The state Department of State will take the lead on developing the LPC, and final membership will be determined by the agency in consultation with local leadership.
While there is no set deadline, officials said finalizing that group is a high priority and will be done as quickly as possible.
“I don’t have names submitted to [state Department of State] today, but we’ll do it fairly shortly,” Mayor Gary McCarthy said.
Schenectady now joins Albany, Amsterdam and Glens Falls in securing the DRI, which has been allocating $100 million statewide annually since 2016 as part of a strategy to galvanize investment in downtowns, many of which have been hollowed after residents flocked to the suburbs.
City officials said the funding will allow them to further long-planned connector projects designed to integrate downtown, Mohawk Harbor and Erie Boulevard.
Big ticket construction projects described as “shovel-ready” by state officials include a long-planned dock at Mohawk Harbor and the proposed Capital Region Aquatic Center, a potential $30 million project located at the same riverfront complex.
The city’s DRI application also contains a concept for a 100,000-square-foot retail and entertainment complex to be located between Rivers Casino & Resort and the marina bordering the riverfront.
The development, according to the application, would feature a mix of retail and entertainment tenants.
But plans aren’t set in stone, and are subject to change.
Once its members are solidified, the LPC will be required to use $300,000 of the $10 million award to craft a “Strategic Investment Plan” to “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.”
Upcoming project milestones include:
- November 2019: Completion of the downtown profile and assessment and DRI goals.
- December 2019: Completion of strategies to implement DRI goals.
- January 2020: Submission of draft project profiles.
- March 2020: Submission of Strategic Investment Plan with profiles of projects recommended for funding.
The plan will ultimately guide the investment of the grant funds and leverage outside money to build on the state’s $10 million investment.
What role does the public have?
“Public engagement is a key component of the DRI planning process,” according to the state Department of State.
Consultants tapped by the state will work with the LPC and agency staff to develop and execute a public outreach plan that “informs, educates and engages members of the local community in the process of developing the plan.”
A minimum of three public meetings or workshops are required, but the state encourages organizers to “consistently engage the public throughout the planning process beyond the three meetings.”
“There is a public hearing component where we have to get the buy-in from the public and the residents of the city before we can actually allocate the money,” said city Engineer Chris Wallin.
Wallin noted the scale and complexity of the proposed projects, which includes elements of road connections, facade improvements, building demolitions and redevelopment.
“We have a lot of homework to do on how we go forward with the announcement and what our timelines are,” Wallin said. “There’s a lot of work to do before we can finally put all these pieces in place.”
The general public is invited to attend the LPC meetings and workshops.
While there is no prescribed meeting schedule, the state anticipates that the body will hold in-person meetings at least monthly throughout the process.
“The public is welcome to attend no matter when the meetings are scheduled,” said the state Department of State in an online Q&A outlining the process. “The extent that the public will be able to actively participate in a meeting will depend on the purpose and structure of the meeting. However, every meeting will include some time set aside for public comment to be received.”
The effort should also encourage initiatives and activities to promote and encourage participation by city residents, “including focus groups, an interactive web presence, ‘charrettes,’ surveys, information booths and even storefront information centers.”