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Watkins Glen wins: Before race weekend, village announced as $10M DRI winner

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo appeared in the Village of Watkins Glen on Thursday to announce that the community will receive $10 million in funding and investments as the Southern Tier winner of the second round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

As in the first round of the DRI, one municipality from each of the state’s 10 regional economic development regions will be selected as a $10 million winner, marking another overall state goal to target $100 million in funding and investments to help communities identify catalytic downtown projects to boost the local economy.

“The first round of DRI proved to be a tremendous success, and by continuing to engage local communities and create new opportunities for business growth, downtowns across New York will thrive for decades,” Governor Cuomo said.

“Revitalizing Watkins Glen will not only boost the local economy and foster job growth, it will provide an improved quality of life for the families who call this community home. I congratulate the Southern Tier on another DRI award and look forward to witnessing this region soar for generations to come.”

Watkins Glen was selected as the second-round DRI winner after its proposal for downtown revitalization, together with the proposals from other participant communities from the Southern Tier region, went through a competitive process, which included the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council’s weighing of these eight criteria before recommending Watkins Glen as its nominee for winner:

  • The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
  • The municipality, or the downtown’s catchment area, should be of sufficient size to support a vibrant, year-round downtown;
  • The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
  • There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
  • The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;
  • The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
  • The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan; and
  • The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.

Watkins Glen’s second-round DRI win entitles it to receive $10 million in state funding and investments to revitalize its downtown neighborhoods and generate new opportunities for long-term growth. Watkins Glen now joins the City of Elmira which was the Southern Tier region’s winner in the first DRI round.

Mayor of Watkins Glen Sam Schimizzi said, “Thanks to the Governor’s historic commitment to Watkins Glen, I look forward to a bustling downtown, new jobs for our residents, and more visitors to our region, as we work together to build a stronger community for our future generations. This $10 million award will provide the jump-start our downtown needs to reinvigorate and grow, and I thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the potential of our village and bringing our DRI plan to life.”

The area selected for revitalization in the Village of Watkins Glen is comprised of the walkable, compact traditional downtown as well as surrounding residential and commercial neighborhoods. There are over 150 businesses as well as a number of residential properties and cultural institutions within the two-square mile area.

Benefitting from local amenities that include the Seneca Lake waterfront, parks, wine trails, a growing art scene, and the internationally-recognized Watkins Glen International race, downtown Watkins Glen is ripe for investment.  The community will use the Downtown Revitalization Initiative to leverage progressive development codes and recent investments in the Watkins Glen International Race Track to create a sustainable environment for a year-round innovative and prosperous economy.

Watkins Glen will now begin the process of developing a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown with up to $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million DRI grant. A Local Planning Committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders will lead the effort, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners. The Strategic

Investment Plan for downtown Watkins Glen will examine local assets and opportunities and identify economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation. The downtown Watkins Glen Strategic Investment Plan, as well as the plans developed by the other nine DRI winners, will guide the investment of DRI grant funds in revitalization projects that will advance the community’s vision for its downtown and that can leverage and expand upon the state’s $10 million investment. Plans for DRI’s second round will be complete in early 2018.

Today’s announcement also complements “Southern Tier Soaring,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $3.1 billion in the region since 2012 to lay for groundwork for the plan – attracting a talented workforce, growing business and driving innovation.

Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Binghamton, Johnson City and Corning as a destination in which to grow and invest.

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