OSWEGO, NY – The Port City is looking for the best possible ways to spend $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative money.
Increased safety, better access to the waterfront, sidewalk improvements, better promotion of the historic districts, preserve and increase downtown parking, stimulate residential development and many other ideas were proposed Thursday night.
In early July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Oswego was selected as the winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in Central New York.
The DRI marks a comprehensive plan to transform local neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live and work, the Governor said.
To that end, nearly 100 Port City residents gathered at the McCrobie Building Thursday night to lay the foundation for how that money might be put to use as well as it leveraging other funding and services.
Mayor Billy Barlow welcomed the crowd and thanked them for helping plan the city’s future.
“It’s an extraordinary for the city of Oswego. We owe a sincere thank you to Gov. Cuomo, our state representatives and the team at City Hall,” he said.
“We’re here tonight because we need to hear from you. Your feedback tonight will have significant influence over the proposal that will ultimately go to our local planning team,” he continued.
Hopefully, the city can move forward with the plan early next year, he added.
That $10 million will leverage other state and federal funds, according to Steve Kearney, associate/senior planner for Stantec Urban Places Group, who will assist Oswego officials to design the plan.
They will follow up on this meeting in January, identifying the projects and funding opportunities, he explained. Then they’ll develop the implementation strategy.
The next public meeting will be on Jan. 3, 2017.
“Then, in February, you’ll have a revitalization plan,” he said. “We’re going to be busy.”
The goal is to make Oswego “an exciting four season destination to shop, live, work and play.”
The city has a lot going for it; but there are some areas that should be addressed, Kearney pointed out.
Its relationship with the college is a growth opportunity, he said. But, downtown’s disconnect from the waterfront is an issue, he added.
Between 2010 and 2030 they will be more Millennials than Baby Boomers; the middle and upper class are choosing to live in downtown areas, he pointed out. Oswego has already moved in that direction but will need to do more in the years to come, he said.
“There are a lot of things Oswego could do to get a lot of bang for its buck; things that could be down relatively inexpensively,” said Doren Norfleet, a former city attorney. “That way, they could save money for the bigger projects.
Chena Tucker, associate director of SUNY Oswego’s Office of Business and Community Relations, envisions a small family park near Fort Ontario, near the Little League fields.
“It would be a place where you combine fitness and family activities,” she said.
There would be a walking trail around it and you could put a playground in the center, she said.
“It could also be an inter-generational thing,” Norfleet added. “I’m a grandparent. I could take my grandkids there and I could get my exercise, too. In the winter, if you prepped it the right way, you could snowshoe around it.”
It might even be possible to create an area to ice skate, Tucker said.
“We value the public’s input and feedback,” Mayor Barlow said. “It will be significant as we move forward to develop plans for use of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding.”
With assets that include a scenic waterfront location, compact and walkable downtown, rich cultural history and anchor institutions such as SUNY Oswego, Oswego Health and the Port of Oswego Authority, Oswego is well-positioned for a transformation into a regionally competitive area while maintaining its small town charm.
Under the DRI, Oswego will focus on catalytic projects in the downtown that will leverage significant private investment and provide new housing opportunities, mixed-use development, a business incubator, commercial/retail development and community services.