New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul visited Owego on Thursday, Aug. 8 to announce the 17 projects that won the state’s approval for Owego’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), a $10 million grant. The Village of Owego was the Southern Tier winner of the third round of the DRI announced last year.
In a separate statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “These projects will transform Owego’s downtown by enabling the community to enhance its public spaces, create employment opportunities and further diversify the local economy,” adding, “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative will be instrumental in bringing economic growth and improved quality of life to the area.”
Attending the event at the Elks Lodge were village, town and county and state government officials, economic development representatives, local business owners, nonprofit organizations and community leaders.
Throughout the last year, representatives from the Owego community formed a planning committee, which included municipal representatives, community leaders, government officials, nonprofit organizations and business owners, among others, and met in workshop settings, as well as held public hearings to discuss multiple projects for consideration.
Village of Owego Mayor Michael Baratta opened the event by extending his thanks to the planning committee, Team Tioga, local and state officials, and the community.
Baratta remarked that one of the key aspects of the entire process has been building relationships with all levels of government, and said, “The village is excited and ready to jump into these projects along with our community and business partners. It will be a lot of work but we are up for the challenge,” adding, “Our beautiful and historic village will be an even better place to live, work and play. This award is well deserved.”
Hochul shared that she grew up in the village of Hamburg, N.Y. and that her mother was a small business owner. From that experience, Hochul remarked that she shares a passion for small communities in Upstate New York. The Lieutenant Governor said by improving smaller communities would give reason for young people to stay and work here, as well as raise their families here, among other positive effects.
“The $10 million to reinvent the destiny of your community is powerful,” Hochul commented, and also commended the planning committee for their vision and putting forth their best ideas.
Hochul also said, “The investment is part of our overall efforts to accelerate growth in the Southern Tier with the creation of new jobs to strengthen the local economy now and in the future.”
The specific projects to be funded through the DRI include:
Enhance Waterfront Accessibility and Recreational Opportunities: Provide access at key locations to the Susquehanna River and Owego Creek waterfronts and create connections between the Riverwalk and waterfront parks, increasing the use of these resources, drawing activity to existing and future businesses along Front Street, and providing attractive amenities to anticipated upper-story residences overlooking the walkway. The project will include aesthetic improvements, shoreline stabilization, and lighting and signage along the Riverwalk; expansion and improvements at boat launches; and installation of recreation amenities along the Owego Creek walking trails.
Enhance Recreation Amenities and Drainage Infrastructure at Marvin Park: Install recreation amenities and improvements to the drainage system at Owego’s largest open space, rendering the park easier to maintain by the village and enabling greater use by residents and visitors. Examples of potential improvements include landscaping, handicap-accessible playground equipment, resurfacing of the existing tennis and basketball courts, replacement of the existing skate park, walking path upgrades, restroom improvements, additional security measures, and additional drainage infrastructure and flood mitigation strategies.
Support the Creative Community with Marketing, Public Realm Amenities, and Improvements to the Tioga Arts Council Facility: Create a dual marketing and branding strategy promoting Owego’s creative community to attract and support local artists and arts-related businesses. The project will consist of developing cohesive branding for members of the local arts and business communities in coordination with the Tioga Arts Council, Historic Owego Marketplace, the Tioga County Chamber of Commerce, the Tioga County IDA, and the Tioga County Tourism Office, and hiring a professional marketing firm to create a marketing strategy, theme, branding logo, and comprehensive signage plan that will also serve as the basis for digital and social marketing, brochures and magnets, and improvements to building image and the public realm. This marketing and branding campaign will be supplemented by interior improvements to the Tioga Arts Council (TAC) facility to create greater opportunity for art exhibitions and arts-related programming. Facility upgrades include expanding existing gallery space, improving workshop space, enhancing the quality of Tech Lab space, and implementing environmentally friendly strategies.
Improve Accessibility at the Coburn Free Library: Construct an elevator system providing access to all floors of the historic Coburn Free Library, enhancing its ability to meet all of the educational needs of the community. The construction will include a 1,200-square-foot annex with an elevator shaft and system, including required electrical connections, necessary modifications to the building, expanded reading room space, and handicapped restrooms.
Expand the Ti-Ahwaga Performing Arts Center’s Facility and Capacity: Expand the Ti-Ahwaga Performing Arts Center to increase its capacity for productions and programming and create new educational opportunities for Owego residents. The expansion will consist of a 2,200 square-foot addition to the ground level of the southwest side of the existing structure, as well as a new full basement of the same size, to provide an easily accessible workspace for building and storing production materials, enabling the existing storage space and stage to be leveraged for additional programming, rentals, events, meetings, parties, films, and concerts.
Expand the Tioga County Historical Society Museum: Expand the Tioga County Historical Society Museum’s 1959 facility to create additional space for exhibits, storage, a lecture hall, and office space, enabling the museum to increase its exhibit and programming capacity, drawing more visitors from the community and beyond, and bolstering Owego’s identity as a destination for arts, culture, and history in the Southern Tier.
Transform a Vacant Lot into the North Avenue Art Park: Transform a highly visible vacant lot on North Avenue into a unique creative space anchoring the Owego Creative Community and serving as a recreational resource for residents of all ages. The North Avenue Art Park will include an interactive sculpture garden, an amphitheater, and on-site parking in a new public lot accessible from Central Avenue.
Enhance Downtown Parking Options: Improve downtown parking lots, increase the visibility of available spots, and reconfigure employee parking options to leverage existing underutilized parking options and facilitate access to DRI businesses and amenities. This project will include better signage directing visitors to parking lots with a surplus of spaces and a comprehensive parking strategy reorganizing the village’s supply.
Improve Key Facades as Cornerstones of Revitalization: Improve prominent downtown facades to collectively transform the village, improving its outward-facing image, attracting new businesses and residents, and encouraging visitors to linger, explore, and frequent attractions throughout DRI area. Properties identified for improvement include the JJ Newberry Building, 32-34 Lake Street, 194 Front Street, 53-55 North Avenue, 57-59 North Avenue, 62-64 North Avenue, 100-106 North Avenue, 132-134 North Avenue, and 50 Lake Street.
Upgrade Lake Street Infrastructure to Support Mixed Uses: Repair and upgrade the collectively-owned sanitary sewer line supporting the mixed-use buildings along the western side of Lake Street, integrating the line into the public system and enabling the maintenance necessary to ensure community health and full use of the retail and residential properties affected. DRI funds will also support comprehensive mapping of the sanitary sewer system.
Enhance Lighting along Southside Drive: Repair streetlights along the southside portion of the village and improve electrical connections to better link this area to the downtown core and increase safety for people of all ages and abilities, resulting in greater visitor activity with beneficial impacts for downtown shops and restaurants.
Restore the Owego Central Fire Station: Restore the historic Owego Central Fire Station as a North Avenue anchor to protect a historic resource integral to Owego identity and maintain the downtown charm and character that appeals to residents, visitors, and businesses. Proposed physical improvements include facade enhancement, stabilization of the bell tower, masonry, repairs, repointing, repainting, roof replacement, chimney work, interior repairs, expanded accessibility, basement repairs and flood proofing, signage improvements, and repaving.
Create a Mixed-Use Brewery as a Gateway to North Avenue: Transform an existing building on North Avenue into mixed-use facility serving as a gateway to Owego to spur further redevelopment of this neglected end of this main artery leading to the heart of the village. The project will include a craft brewery and tap room, food service, non-profit / artist incubator space, three residential units, and public open space capitalizing on the facility’s location at the threshold of the Finger Lakes Beer and Wine Trail.
Support the Development of a Diverse Business Community: Provide suitable structures for office, residential, commercial, and studio uses in the DRI Area through new construction, upgrades to existing buildings at key sites, and expansion of existing small businesses. This multi-site effort responds to applications received during the DRI planning process and includes projects at 127 McMaster Street, Ice Cream Works, Home Central, 171 Front Street / 2 Court Street, the Cellar Restaurant building, 20 Church Street, 37-41 Lake Street, and the Parkview Restaurant and Hotel.
Complete the Restoration of a Prominent Mixed-Use Building: Close a funding gap to complete the transformation of a formerly blighted building at 167-169 Main Street into a mixed-use facility, attracting a diverse population of residents and workers with market-rate housing opportunities and updated amenities at one of the village’s most prominent intersections. The project includes eight new apartments, two new commercial spaces, and an enhanced facade.
Create a Modern Industrial Employment Hub: Facilitate the expansion of Applied Technology Manufacturing Corporation (ATMC), which will transform a dilapidated site into a modern industrial building and property and create 6-10 new jobs. The project consists of rehabilitating the northern end of the 14,000-square-foot building and demolishing and reconstructing the southern end.
Create a Neighborhood Non-Profit Hub and Emergency Shelter: Construct a non-profit hub on a 1.6-acre parcel on North Depot Street to provide conference rooms, a large training room, and affordable rental space including shared printers, telephones, office space and utilities to charitable organizations, freeing up funds for community services and staff support. The facility will also serve as a community emergency shelter with temporary accommodations for 150 displaced residents, as well as showers and a kitchen for their use. The sponsor is also pursuing the possibility of adding residential use at this site at a later date.
For more information on the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, visit www.ny.gov/programs/downtown-revitalization-initiative.