After months of waiting, the city of Ithaca once again lost a $10 million New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant for the Southern Tier which would have been used to partially fund several downtown projects and initiatives such as a conference center and a partial continuation of the Commons down E. State St. The winner, instead, was the city of Hornell, located in Steuben County.
Though the city's finishing position this year is not yet known, they have finished in second place several times before. That's due in part, Mayor Svante Myrick said in July, to the fact that Ithaca retains one of the healthier economies in the Southern Tier, and the DRI grants are normally aimed at municipalities which would have deeper needs.
Myrick had submitted the proposal and made a pitch to state officials over the summer. The plan included using the grant money to fund a substantial amount of affordable housing (likely helping out with the 200 or so units of affordable housing included in the Green Street Garage project), helping to fund construction of a conference center (also part of the Green Street Garage project, although seemingly contingent on grant funding), parking infrastructure expansion and rehabilitation, the extension of the Commons one block down West State Street, a health hub (which could have been a location for a safe injection site), downtown WiFi (which would have been cool), and other projects.
The actual impact of losing out on the grant might not be known for a few months. This was the first known grant shoe to drop, so to speak; Tompkins County is still up for a Consolidated Funding Application from the state that would be worth $5 million, submitted by the Tompkins Chamber Foundation. That will be announced in December. The Ithaca Times is awaiting comment back from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.
“Of course Ithaca and Tompkins County are disappointed that the Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding has once again gone to another community in the Southern Tier,” said Jennifer Tavares, President of the Tompkins Chamber. “We recognize there are other downtowns in the region worthy of investment by New York State. However, our collaborative of local organizations and public officials will continue our hard work to advocate for funding for the Downtown Ithaca Conference Center and several other projects critical to moving our community forward, and continuing to grow and sustain our local economy.”
According to the award announcement, Hornell was selected due to the resurgence the community has seen in previous years through investments in local housing options, manufacturing facilities, arts and cultural offerings, healthcare centers, commercial and mixed-use development, and public infrastructure. Using this award, Hornell will be able to continue its resurgence by supporting the numerous opportunities necessary to sustain a robust workforce, engaged citizenship, and a high standard of living. Their application outlined some of the different things Hornell will be using the grant for.
“The City of Hornell will build upon the immense progress that is happening with the growth in employment and private development throughout the city,” the application reads. “Hornell has over $300 million in private investment over the last 2 years. With the assistance of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Hornell plans to leverage an additional $250 million that will foster Downtown Hornell’s educational, cultural, historic, artistic, recreational, dining, and retail opportunities. DRI investment will: strengthen existing local and regional assets; create long-term value to support future generations; and provide an inclusive and sustainable downtown experience for residents, workers, students, and visitors.