Utica, N.Y. - It's been a whirlwind 8 months in the city of Utica when it comes to applying for, and receiving, New York State DRI funding to help revitalize its downtown area.
Residents gave their input for the application process last May. Governor Cuomo came to town in November to make the announcement that Utica had been selected to receive $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding. Since the announcement in November, the city has held a number of open houses to get residents' input, as well as take in proposals for projects via the internet and mail which had to be submitted by January 13th, but now where do things stand?
City of Utica Community Development Specialist Derek Crossman gave the League of Women Voters an update this weekend.
Crossman says the DRI process is moving along, "We're working with a consultant team that the state hired for us in this DRI process and they're from Saratoga. We’re also working with the New York Department of State, New York State Empire Development, and New York Homes and Community Renewal, so they’re all part of this team, this core backbone to this process. And on top of that, we have a Local Planning Committee which is made up of local individuals, business owners, non profit executive directors, community residents and they’re all part of this local planning committee that’s really making the decisions throughout this process."
Crossman says the planning committee is continuing to go through all of the project proposals that have been submitted to determine which ones make the most sense.
Crossman says the next step is another DRI Open House will be held on February 6th, and he says he hopes a lot of residents attend it, "We just closed the open call for projects on January 13th, so the LPC, the local planning committee, is going to be working through all that information and I think there will be a lot of new stuff that the public will be able to learn about and get involved in, especially involving feedback with those projects and the way in which the DRI is going to that point."
One Utica woman who attended the informational meeting hosted by the League of Women Voters this weekend is Natalie Williams, a downtown Utica property owner. Williams says she submitted a number of project proposals and hopes one of those projects is chosen, "I did apply for 5 of those DRI grants which were open for three weeks and then another week and I question whether they’re going to be fairly evaluated because I think the city already has their plan of what they want to do with the money, and who they want to get this DRI money."
Crossman says that's definitely not the case. He says the Local Planning Committee will evaluate all proposals using criteria the state has provided to select projects and then come up with its Strategic Investment Plan, which will include a total of $15 million worth of projects, and submit that plan to the state in April.
Crossman says the state will then choose $10 million worth projects from the $15 million that were submitted to get to that $10 million figure that was granted to the city.