AMSTERDAM & GLOVERSVILLE -- The cities of Gloversville and Amsterdam are among four municipalities in the Mohawk Valley Region vying for a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant.
Last week, in a closed door meeting of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Council, representatives from Amsterdam, Gloversville, Utica and Cooperstown, all made presentations to an ad hoc committee of the council tasked with scoring the grant applications and providing New York state with a recommendation for which should win the competitive process. This is the third year the state has offered a $10 million grant prize to 10 cities, one each for the state's 10 regional economic development councils.
In the first two years of the contest, the cities of Oneonta and Rome were the winners for the Mohawk Valley.
Fulton County Center for Regional Growth President Ron Peters said he's hoping the third time will be the charm for Gloversville. Peters said his organization has worked closely with city officials to craft an aggressive development plan that they feel could win the contest.
"Every year you learn things, and each year the state has kind of changed what they are looking for. The first year, everybody was in the same boat. In the second year, the state asked everybody to shrink down the DRI area to a more concise area within the blocks of a downtown district," he said. "The first year there were around seven applications. This year there are four. One of the strengths of our plan is that $10 million for Gloversville would be transformational; we are not a big city. We have a pretty condensed downtown."
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said he feels the city of Amsterdam application is the strongest the city has submitted in the three-year history of the contest.
Amsterdam's application was bolstered by a $207,790 engineering study conducted by Mott Macdonald, which looks at the feasibility of building a $34 million multimodal downtown train station in Amsterdam. Rose said the multimodal plan is included among the projects in the Amsterdam application, which his office assisted in drafting, as well as a proposal to close the eastbound spur off Route 5 and turn it into green space.
Rose said information about the multimodal project and the Route 5 spur have already been released to the public, but he's keeping all of the other elements of Amsterdam's plan a secret until the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Council posts each of the four applications on its website at regionalcouncils.ny.gov/mohawk-valley.
"We just don't want to do anything right now to jeopardize our chances," he said.
Rose agreed with Peters' assessment that the council is looking for plans that are tightly centered around a geographic area.
"We made this year's application so that you could get around what we're defining as the 'DRI area' in like a 10-minute walk. Rome really hit that hard last year with the projects in its application, so we took those comments we received to heart," Rose said. "We also have a lot more projects, both private and public sector projects that are reinforced and enhanced by some studies that have been done, like the multimodal study. We feel like we have a much stronger application than last year."
Peters said some of the elements of Gloversville's plan include 50 new residential units to be built in the downtown area, a plan to "infill" existing buildings with 100 new residential units, two or three regional restaurants, a small limited service hotel, creation and improvement of several public parks, creation of a leather and glove retail outlet with museum, and a pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown to creek corridor.
"If we're approved we'd also put money toward the Glove Performing Arts Center, which is a cornerstone, mainstay in downtown. We'd also be looking at a business incubator in downtown to help businesses grow," he said.
Rose and Peters said the projects included in the DRI applications can be used when either city seeks other state grant funding.
If either city is approved for the $10 million prize a consulting firm selected by New York state will help administer the grant, which could ultimately modify how and on what projects within the application money is spent.
Rose and Peters said they aren't certain what the state's timetable will be for determining the 2018 winner.