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Inside the FLX: Geneva’s Matt Horn and Sage Gerling talk downtown

Sitting down with Geneva City Manager Matt Horn and Geneva’s Director of Neighborhood Initiatives Sage Gerling – optimism, energy, and passion for the City they call home is overwhelming.

On Thursday’s edition of Inside the FLX the pair sat down with Josh Durso to discuss some of the great news that has come out of Geneva in the last several months, which will be capped off in August with the City’s adoption of a comprehensive plan.

Gerling explained that the plan is really about adopting a “decision making guide,” to ensure that Geneva is doing the right things, which will ultimately fit in with the larger vision of the community as a whole.

Beautiful, prosperous, equitable, connected and sustainability. Gerling said that the plan identified these five areas as crucial to Geneva successfully navigating the next several years. Both talked about the benefit of having a community like Geneva, which is so uniquely ready to handle a variety of new and exciting things.

The plan though, which was a key factor in the City winning $10 million in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative – as they utilized the past successes of Geneva to highlight why they deserved the $10 million award.

During the spring 10 area-cities competed to win the $10 million award from New York State, which culminated with Governor Cuomo delivering a victory presentation at the Geneva Events Center.

One challenge that Horn and Gerling touched on was the struggle of connecting downtown Geneva with the lakefront property, which is a major tool for the area as a whole. Independently of each other, the two sections of Geneva have seen tremendous growth over the last decade. However, Horn explained that with a large highway, with a speed limit of 45 mph, it becomes a challenge to see the two connected in a meaningful way.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Both believe that connecting downtown and the lakefront property can easily be done, even by making some minor, and relatively inexpensive cosmetic improvements to the areas. Reducing the amount of pavement space, and working to create a little more green space, as Horn said are less-expensive ways to visually connect the two areas.

Geneva is in the process of completing a six part process, which has left the lakefront property near the Ramada Inn in a state of construction. That benefit though will be felt widely, as residents utilizing public space will be closer and more connected with Seneca Lake than ever before.

Both Horn and Gerling bring a unique perspective to Geneva, as both are transplants to the region. Gerling growing up in Austin, Texas – coming from a large and bustling city and Horn coming from Virginia, where he started personally and professionally.

“I watched people give up,” Horn said talking about what he had seen in other communities. Whether it was due to economic downturn, bad times, or just a bit of bad luck – it was what spurred him to drive forward and take a positive, solutions-based tact in his career. “I would much rather look for solutions,” he explained talking about the choice municipalities are faced with as a cycle of ups-and-downs is a reality.

“For me Geneva had these assets,” Horn explained. He talked about his experience while interviewing for the job of City Manager, as some advised against the city he now calls home. “Look at other places in the Finger Lakes,” he continued. “It’s not a one-trick-pony. You could really make something out of Geneva.”

In short, both were resoundingly sold on Geneva for what it offered.

Horn went on to point out that a phrase Gerling shared a couple years ago has turned into their mantra:

Instead of “The City should,” dialogue in Geneva has shifted to “With the City’s help we can.”

This attitude has been a major component of the successes that Geneva has experience in the last several years. Both believe it’s a crucial component of their ability to continue making Geneva a uniquely urban destination within the Finger Lakes.

Check out the entire City of Geneva Comprehensive Plan, which is set for adoption here.

Watch the entire Inside the FLX podcast in the video player above, or download any episode in the iTunes Store.

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