SENECA FALLS — People began putting their ideas down on paper Monday on how to spend $10 million in state money to revitalize this community’s 116.2-acre downtown.
Four tables of 7-8 people discussed and wrote down what they’d like to see happen. The participants examined easels with proposals from a local planning committee, and wrote notes to consultants about what they liked and didn’t like and how to make ideas better.
Led by Edward Flynn of LaBella Associates, the session kicked off a public process that will culminate in April with a final selection of projects to submit to the state for approval and funding. The state will announce which projects it accepts in July. Project areas include public improvements, private development, revolving loans and grants and branding and marketing.
“Let your imaginations run free, but remember that the state will only approve projects that will meet their criteria and be transformative,” Flynn said.
Participants at each table used a map showing the boundaries of the downtown area. They placed colored sticky notes with ideas on areas where they’d like to see projects located.
Two more public sessions will be held before a final list of projects is submitted to the state for funding. Up to $15 million worth of projects can be submitted, but only $10 million will be allocated by the state.
“Mixed-use buildings, economic development, improving the quality of life, projects that will get more people living downtown on the upper floors, plus walkability are key elements of any project,” Flynn noted.
The easels listed some potential projects, such as:
• Redevelopment of the former St. Patrick’s School at 81 W. Bayard St.
• Improvements to the Sackett Business District on the south side of the canal.
• Re-energizing People’s Park on Water Street.
• Repurposing the former Seneca Falls Hospital and Town Hall on lower Fall Street.
• Upgrading the Museum of Waterways & Industry downtown.
• Establishing a building improvement fund.
• Reviving the former Seneca Theater at 32 Fall St.
• Incubating the culinary business.
• Enhancing the Seneca Falls Historical Society on Cayuga Street.
The four project types that will be considered are public improvements, private development, revolving loans and grants, and branding and marketing.
Public improvements are such things as streetscapes, roadway improvements, trails, parks, squares, open space and public parking.
Private development includes significant new development or rehabilitation of an existing building, mixed uses, commercial, residential or by public, private or non-profit investors.
Revolving loans and grants would be a building improvement fund, programs that provide funding for projects that are smaller and less transformative individually, interior and exterior renovations. The fund would be up to $600,000, with 75 percent reimbursement on investment.
Branding and marketing would involve physical things such as signage, gateways, directional signs and banners.
Projects are encouraged that will take advantage of both the Cayuga-Seneca Canal that runs through downtown and the VanCleef Lake portion of the canal east of downtown.
The timetable calls for a draft final DRI strategic plan and project profiles by the end of February and development of a final DRI plan and project profiles by the end of April, with submission to the state to follow. Flynn said the state should make decisions on which projects to fund in July.
As part of the process, town residents are encouraged to fill out a public DRI survey. Copies are available at the municipal building on Ovid Street. Completed surveys should be returned to there.
The survey also is on the Seneca Falls DRI website.