City fine-tuning $10M grant application

Third Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth Batchelor comments on possible projects to be included in the city's application for the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative state grant award through Round IX of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative during a community workshop at the Gloversville Public Library on Monday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — City officials and community members expressed a sense of optimism while providing feedback on possible projects for inclusion in the city’s application for the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant during a workshop at the Gloversville Public Library on Monday.

The city is readying a submission for the fourth offering of the $10 million DRI state grant through Round IX of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative with an application prepared by LaBella Associates, which previously worked on the city’s Downtown Revitalization Strategy.

Community members were invited to comment on possible projects to be included in the application for the $10 million DRI award that is due on May 31 and to suggest new ideas to help shape the final submission.

“We are very nimble,” Mayor Vincent DeSantis said Monday welcoming any and all ideas. “We are capable of modifying the application very quickly.”

DeSantis expressed confidence in the initial ideas developed to revitalize downtown in the event the city is selected as the award recipient for the Mohawk Valley region, to be propelled even further by the city’s commitment to provide a $1.15 million funding match for downtown public improvements and to provide oversight during the roughly five-year timetable for DRI projects by hiring a professional manager for $400,000 including salary and benefits.

Glove Theatre Board of Directors President Laurie Lazinski, right, and board member Sharon Poling, left, comment on possible projects to be included in the city's application for the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative state grant award through Round IX of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative during a community workshop at the Gloversville Public Library on Monday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

“The City Council has committed at the last meeting over $1.5 million to be invested in public streetscape improvements in downtown in the event that we are awarded the $10 million grant,” DeSantis said. “Which is a very, very powerful statement.”

“I have to again express my gratitude to the city councils in the past, because over the past 10 years Gloversville has bootstrapped itself out of a situation of insolvency into a situation now where we have a sufficient fund balance to be able to invest in the future,” he continued. “We have what we consider to be a very powerful application.”

A committee of city officials and community members have worked with LaBella Planning Division Director Edward Flynn to prepare the initial draft of the city’s application, including prospective projects and funding uses that were displayed on boards around the library meeting room for community members to write comments on and make suggestions.

“The downtown revitalization approach is a comprehensive approach. It talks about attracting residents here, it talks about attracting businesses and it also talks about making sure we have public spaces downtown, arts and culture,” Flynn explained. “The idea is to create that place downtown, that neighborhood downtown that people want to invest in and live in and that will then attract jobs and attract investment into the community. Obviously having $10 million is a good start to getting that investment started.”

DRI funds can only be used in downtown areas for such projects as public improvements, development, the creation of loan funds and physical branding or marketing through things like banners or signs.

Gloversville Mayor Vincent DeSantis and LaBella Planning Division Director Edward Flynn present possible projects to be included in the city's application for the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative state grant award through Round IX of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative during a community workshop at the Gloversville Public Library on Monday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

The award funds cannot be used for site acquisitions, studies, training and costs incurred before or after receipt of the grant.

Flynn explained that the city’s application will include projects estimated at a total cost of $30 to $40 million. If the city receives the DRI funds, those projects will be whittled down to about $15 million for final submission to the state.

The state will then give final approval for projects utilizing $9.7 million in grant funds with the expectation that additional project costs may be funded by the city, community groups and private stakeholders or property owners.

“Public projects can be 100 percent funded. Non-profit projects could be potentially funded 100 percent, we always recommend they put in a little bit of funding. For the private projects, [the state] really [doesn’t] like to fund any more than 50 percent, probably closer to 40 percent,” Flynn explained.

Projects proposed by the city include the restoration of the Glove Theatre for an estimated $5 million, renovation of the upper floors of the Schine building for commercial and residential use for $1 million, creation of a cultural and recreational corridor connecting downtown to the Rail Trail and Cayadutta Creek for $1.4 million, enhancing downtown parking lots for $750,000 and establishing a building improvement fund for $1 million.

Additional projects include renovating the former Rubin Glove factory to turn the building into an art gallery, studio and workspace on the first floor with apartments on the upper floors for $500,000, regeneration of the southwest corridor through the redevelopment of multiple vacant and underutilized buildings for mixed uses at a cost of $15 million, development of a business incubator at the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth building for $750,000 and improvements to the Fulton County Barbershop building to create a barber school on the second floor and apartments on the third floor for $1 million.

Overall workshop participants responded positively to the proposed projects expressing support for the array of ideas in written comments.

“The vision is there,” city resident Caren Pepper said. “There is so much potential.”

“Getting the DRI would a major win for downtown, it would bring more businesses and make downtown the place to be on weekends or anytime,” Glove Theatre Board of Directors President Laurie Lazinski said taking in the projects. “It could change Gloversville as we know it.”

While voicing support for projects that could reshape downtown, Lazinski noted the proposed $5 million use of the award funds for the Glove Theatre could allow the theater to undergo needed renovations throughout the historic building and to acquire modern equipment to expand the options for entertainment at the venue within the next five years.

“To raise that on our own would probably take 10 to 15 years,” Lazinski said. “We probably would not be able to do that on our own.”

The Glove Theatre seemed to be the most popular of the proposed projects with comments about the theater’s ability to become an entertainment hub drawing city dwellers and outside residents downtown filling the board.

Third Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth Batchelor pointed to the proposed inclusion of the Glove Theatre where volunteers from the board and the community have already worked to make improvements as a highlight for the city’s DRI application.

“I’m glad to see the Glove get attention,” Batchelor said. “I think it’s important for the application to show that people have done a lot of footwork and are not just waiting for the DRI.”

Another favorite for Batchelor were projects seeking to renovate downtown buildings to create commercial space at the street level with residential space on upper floors to draw new businesses and potential employees downtown.

As the workshop wrapped up, Flynn noted that the majority of the 14 proposed projects received positive feedback from the roughly 25 community members in attendance.

Only the proposed renovation of the Mills Block building for $575,000 to create commercial and residential space went without comment, with participants saying they didn’t know where the building is. According to Downtown Development Specialist Jennifer Jennings the building is on North Main Street attached to the Argersinger building.

“It looks like most of the projects could potentially go within the final DRI application,” Flynn said, noting that LaBella Associates will compile the comments for review with city officials before considering alterations to the DRI application.

Overall, DeSantis said he was pleased with the turnout for the workshop, expressing optimism in the city’s chances at walking away with the $10 million grant when DRI award announcements are made in the fall.

“I feel like this is our year,” DeSantis said.

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