Governor Cuomo was in Geneva Friday afternoon to announce the winning projects in the city’s $10 Million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
“Twelve projects that are innovative, that are feasible, and are going to transform Geneva.”
The process of deciding the projects to be funded began almost a year ago and City Manager Matt Horn opened the event with thanks to those who participated.
“We put together something that I would never term as a wish list, something that is a strategic investment plan. I see lots of the local planning committee members here. That was not an easy task. When I use the term heavy lift, I am not being disingenuous.”
The projects that will be funded include infrastructure improvements for pedestrian traffic, especially for access to the lakefront at 5 & 20 and the Five-Point intersection near the public library. A number of building restoration and improvement projects will be funded including the Dove Block and Patent Block, The Smith Opera House, and repurposing the vacant theatre on Exchange Street by a Canandaigua-based micro-brewery. Another public, private partnership, The Lake Tunnel Solar Village, a solar-powered residential development of vacation rentals and micro-apartments was funded. Other public infrastructure projects include development of a public marina north of Long Pier, an historic preservation fund, downtown broadband infrastructure, and a gateway sign at the corner of Exchange and Lake Streets.
In addition to the $10 Million DRI grant, the Governor announced a $5 Million state investment to convert the Geneva Visitors Center into the Finger Lakes Welcome Center. It will be one of 10 welcome centers across the state funded in the fiscal 2018 state budget. In addition to tourist information and a market featuring Finger Lakes products, the Finger Lakes Welcome Center will also bring additional regional partnerships to Geneva.
“Strong Museum of Play in Rochester is developing plans for a children’s outdoor play area. The City of Geneva and New York Wine and Culinary Center will also be able to utilize the 5,500 square foot center.”
Increasing tourism was a theme throughout the event, but Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky cited the investments as a means addressing decades of population loss in the region.
“You know, revitalizing downtowns is particularly in upstate New York because we lost a disproportionate share of young people. We lost population in many upstate cities, but we lost too many young people. And so, it’s important to people of all ages that we invest in our downtowns, but it’s particularly important from an economic development standpoint that we do more and more to retain and attract and bring back the young population. So many of them are starting businesses, starting families, things of that natures. So, for a skilled workforce, for a dynamic economy, focusing on downtown makes perfect economic development sense.”
Outgoing Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Mark Gearan received some good natured ribbing from the Governor about leaving upstate for Boston. Gearan echoed Zemsky’s remarks that economic development retains and attracts a young population.
When I look around downtown Geneva, Andrew King came here from Princeton, New Jersey. He’s now started Space Vinyl right downtown. Julia Hoyle came to Hobart and William Smith from Philadelphia, but she wanted to stay here in the wine industry. Victor Pultinas came here from Boston and Jenna Lavita coming from also Boston, starting Lake Drum Brewery. What I think you’re seeing to Howard’s point, at least for Hobart and William Smith graduates, finding a home in Geneva, taking advantage of the partnership in this community.