GENEVA — In 2016, the city of Geneva was one of 10 communities statewide to receive $10 million in funding under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

In 2018, the village of Newark and the town of Seneca Falls are in the running for the $10 million prize.

Both were named finalists in the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Region, out of five applications.

In Seneca Falls, the news follows what officials call an 18-month effort by the Seneca Falls Development Corporation — a seven-member board that includes two members of the Town Board, Greg Lazarro and Dave Delelys — “to lay a stronger foundation for economic growth, downtown revitalization and ongoing grant pursuits for the Seneca Falls area.”

In Newark, officials are looking to step up efforts to reinvigorate a downtown hit hard by Urban Renewal efforts from more than three decades ago resulted in the loss of many central business district buildings dating back into the 1800s.

Seneca Falls is excited to be one of the finalists.

“Drafting this grant proposal has been the highlight of my time with the SFDC, because it’s the end result of a community-wide collaborative effort to improve the downtown corridors, the quality of life and the appreciation of place,” said SFDC Director Greg Zellers.

Re-thinking its application

For Newark, its unsuccessful application in 2017 — it did not apply in the first year — was not wasted work, said Mayor Jonathan Taylor.

“We made a lot of changes,” said Taylor, who said a team of village staff worked on the application. “There was definitely a learning curve. We might have had too much information (in 2017).”

Seneca Falls projects presented in the plan for DRI consideration include: Downtown parking and walkability improvement; commercial building improvement; programs to reduce vacant downtown parcels; revitalization of the Sackett Business District on the south side of the Seneca-Cayuga Canal; sign improvements and additions; support for the museums in Seneca Falls; money to support the restoration of the proposed site of the Seneca Falls Performing Arts Center (the current Women’s Interfaith Institute); completion of the Cayuga-Seneca Trail to connect Seneca Falls with Waterloo and Geneva; and beautifying the Ludovico Trail, among other projects.

In Newark, Taylor said much of the focus is on building economic development along the Erie Canal.

“We tried to paint a clear picture, really talking about the assets to the community, like the water,” he said, pointing to the Wayne ARC redevelopment, Erie Shore Landing, which calls for a street-of-shops on next to the village’s canal port to include a coffee shop and bakery, ice cream store and job training site for both ARC participants and others in the community.

Taylor also pointed to the creation of Craft 120, a bar with a deck-view of the Erie Canal as an example of the kinds of downtown development Newark is encouraging.

With the DRI, the state expects matching funds for most projects, public or private.

In Newark, the private interest is there, he said.

“There’s a lot of interest from developers for new projects and redeveloping old properties,” said Taylor.

Seneca Falls touts its history

Seneca Falls officials believe a $10 million influx will enhance the already good vibe in the historic village, recognized as a pivotal site for the women’s right movement, including suffrage.

“As the birthplace of Women’s Rights, our history is one of progress, and if the selection committee embraces our vision, the DRI grant will ensure we have a future to match,” said Zellers.

“Visitors from all over the world come to Seneca Falls to explore and honor its history, to enjoy year-round fun activities, and to take in our small-town charm,” said Joell Murney-Karsten, SFDC Board Chair. “A vibrant downtown area will not only improve their experience, but also help to revitalize the jewel within the crown of our historic region.”

For Newark, the DRI funds will help augment the village effort to “give us a sense of place,” said Taylor. “We want Newark to be a destination.

“I think our commitment to rebuilding Newark is an advantage,” said Taylor, who said village officials studied Geneva’s winning DRI application for tips. They also consulted with city officials as well.

The village has spent — or is spending — millions of dollars on improvements to its infrastructure, including its water and sewage treatment facilities. It is also in the midst of a $10.2 million reconstruction of South Main Street, which includes a good chunk of downtown Newark.

Taylor said the finalists will head to Monroe Community College on June 20 to make their presentations before a DRI committee affiliated with the regional council. A decision is expected not long after those presentations.

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