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More than a dozen projects given go ahead for Downtown Revitalization Initiative in Auburn

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced 13 transformational projects for downtown Auburn as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award. The strategic investments in downtown Auburn will build on the interconnected relationships between its many natural, multicultural, educational, and historic assets, serving as a meeting place for civic engagement, and sustaining its unparalleled quality of life supported by a strong local economy, diversity, and restored vibrancy for all in the Auburn Business Improvement District and West End Arts District. The investments are part of the Governor’s ongoing efforts to revitalize the upstate economy and create more opportunities for Central New York.

“Auburn has a unique opportunity to reclaim its rich cultural and artistic heritage through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative,” Governor Cuomo said. “By restoring its historic buildings as well as creating modern facilities that will deliver essential public services, this community is poised to flourish for generations to come.”

“Auburn is rich in history with the advancement of human rights movements and as the home of Harriet Tubman and William Seward,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who made today’s announcement. “Building on our investments in the city, including the Equal Rights Heritage Center, these Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects will transform Auburn’s historic city center and downtown, drawing visitors and enhancing quality of life for residents. We are focused on revitalizing Central New York with strategic investments to attract businesses and strengthen the economy for generations to come.”

The Citizen

Auburn was named a DRI Round 3 winner in July. Auburn serves as the Cayuga County seat and is the second largest city in Central New York. Auburn has a fascinating history in hydroelectric power and agricultural mechanization as well as advancement of human rights movements including abolitionism, women’s rights, prison reform and temperance. As “History’s Hometown” Auburn has become a primary travel destination and was also named a best small city to raise a family.

While recent public and private investment, local planning efforts, and capital infrastructure projects have begun to catalyze downtown’s redevelopment, there is still work to be done along the City’s riverfront, transportation corridors, and arts district that comprise the DRI investment area and provide the greatest potential for vacant property revitalization and corridor enhancement. The City is seeking to keep the momentum of recent development going by mending a historic downtown impacted by urban renewal and revitalizing vacant brownfield and riverfront properties. To leverage DRI funds, City leadership has embraced a #ThisPlaceMatters campaign to achieve $40 million in public-private funds to invest in downtown.

The downtown area boasts several existing assets, as well as significant momentum, building towards this vision. The area includes the business district, arts district, and portions of the Auburn Sparks Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) and is central to city and county government activities. It is home to numerous cultural, historical, and recreational resources, including the Seward House Museum, the Cayuga Museum of History and Art, the Case Research Lab, the Schweinfurth Art Center, the Schines Theater, the NYS Equal Rights Heritage Center, the Willard Memorial Chapel, and the Owasco River Greenway Trail.

The specific projects to be funded through the DRI include:

Create a Unified Arts Campus as a Gateway to Downtown: Implement architectural and site improvements to unify the campuses of the Schweinfurth Art Center and Cayuga Museum of History and Arts as a gateway to the future Auburn Arts and Entertainment District, creating a cultural destination and building community through expanded programming and access to open space in an underserved area. Proposed improvements include a continuous outdoor walkway, parking lot and driveway upgrades, new plazas, new accessible entryways to both museums, and amenities such as lighting, signage, interpretive panels, bike racks, benches, and a play sculpture.

Transform an Underutilized Strip Mall into a Public Safety Building: Redevelop a 1970s strip mall on Seminary Street as a new shared services public safety building to create office space for a City and County Emergency Operations Center and Emergency Management Office, as well as facilities to replace the deteriorating City of Auburn Fire Department facility currently located in a dam inundation zone. This project will enable efficient emergency delivery services for the people of Auburn and catalyze revitalization in this portion of the DRI.

Transform a Vacant Lot into a Prominent Public Plaza: Redevelop a centrally-located vacant site into a public plaza for events, festivals, and socializing to fill a need for open spaces in downtown Auburn, round out the vision for the State Street Creative Corridor, and draw people to adjacent retail stores and restaurants. DRI will fund site preparation, water lines, stormwater management, seating areas, landscaping, fencing, hardscaping, and flexible performance space. The project will also include public art, moveable furniture, pedestrian-scale lighting, bike racks, and interpretive signage.

Enable the Auburn Public Theater to Achieve a Sustainable Future: Renovate the Auburn Public Theater to allow for a greater variety of programming and ensure the community anchor’s long-term stability. The project includes the creation of a cafe, community event space, a black box theater, an Auburn Music Hall of Fame, an elevator, kitchen space, a new entryway, and exterior renovations such as a new entrance, digital sign, awnings, and marquees. The facility will activate an underutilized stretch of West Genesee Street, bringing students and staff into downtown and cultivating a workforce equipped for the local restaurant and hospitality industries.

Establish a Peer Recovery Facility: Rehabilitate a vacant three-story structure at 13 Chapel Street into a central facility for comprehensive recovery, treatment, and complementary health care services. The facility will house the existing not-for-profit Nick’s Ride 4 Friends and other health-based organizations with similar missions, fostering a collaborative approach to the urgent issues of addiction. The project will include both interior and exterior renovations.

Rehabilitate the Historic Seward House Museum’s Carriage House and Barn: Rehabilitate the Seward House Museum’s barn and carriage house to serve as meeting, office, and event spaces, preserving a local cultural asset and driving tourism downtown. The project will include stabilizing and repairing the barn foundation and facade, repairing interior and exterior features, updating electrical service, conducting thermal improvements, protecting the buildings from future degradation, and either fixing or removing an adjacent potting shed.

Create a Culinary Arts Facility for Cayuga Community College: Renovate the vacant Plaza of the Arts building to accommodate Cayuga Community College’s new Culinary Arts Program and provide a cafe and central space for community events. Interior renovations will include instructional space as well as build-out and fixed equipment for a commercial grade kitchen.

Convert a Vacant Structure into A Mixed-Use Development: Convert a vacant commercial structure at 22 East Genesee Street into market-rate apartments and ground-floor retail space to create opportunities for people to live, work, and play downtown. The scope of the project includes new plumbing, electrical, sprinkler, and HVAC systems; energy-efficient windows; apartment kitchens and bathrooms; an elevator; fire-rated stairways; facade improvements; flooring and finishes; masonry and carpentry; and storage units.

Establish a Fund to Support Small Business Growth, Exterior Improvements, and Upper-Story Housing: Establish a fund to support the establishment and growth of small businesses, improve the built environment, and increase housing options in downtown Auburn. The program will provide financial support to establish or expand businesses, implement exterior improvements that complement the character of downtown, and undertake interior improvements to renovate or create upper-story housing.

Renovate the Health Central Building to Accommodate Specialty Health Services: Rehabilitate 10,000 square feet of space within the Health Central building to house medical, surgical, behavioral, and dental specialties, as well as additional diagnostic and treatment services, reducing the need for residents to travel outside of the community for health care, creating new local employment opportunities, and attracting or retaining ancillary service providers. Examples of improvements include the creation of a waiting room and reception area, exam or therapy rooms, individual and group offices, nursing or staff working areas, and administrative areas and storage.

Launch a Public Art Placemaking Initiative: Install public art throughout the DRI area to celebrate local artists, beautify the public realm, and attract visitors to a new ‘Avenue of the Arts.’ Proposed installations include sculpture and green space improvements at the Boyle Center, a Harriet Tubman Life Cycle sculpture at Freedom Park, a sculpture at South Street and Genesee Street, a mural at the Auburn Public Theater, a mural at Nash’s Art Supply, and light pole banners along Loop Road establishing the ‘Avenue of the Arts.’

Restore a Historic Chapel as a Cultural and Tourist Asset: Renovate the Willard Memorial Chapel, a National Historic Landmark, to improve its community event venue and promote cultural heritage tourism. The project consists of the interior restoration of the chapel in keeping with its original design and finishes, and exterior improvements to the parking lot and landscaping.

Renovate the Vacant Rudolph Building for Mixed-Uses: Convert the Rudolph Building at 99 Genesee Street into a mixed-use development across from the Auburn Public Theater. New ground-floor retail space and upper-story residential units will boost traffic downtown following installation of a sprinkler system and new electrical and plumbing, renovations to apartments and other interior spaces, and facade improvements.

Auburn developed a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown with $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 led the effort, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners. The Strategic Investment Plan for downtown Auburn examined local assets and opportunities and identified economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation.

The DRI projects are the latest example of Governor Cuomo’s ongoing commitment to Auburn and Central New York.

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “All of Central New York and the rest of the state stands proud with the City of Auburn today, as the community reaps the benefits of Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Auburn’s downtown is on the precipice of great things and these investments will ensure a bright future for the city and the entire region.”

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Auburn’s DRI projects will build on the city’s existing attractions and assets, adding the infrastructure improvements that will create an engaging downtown area and further the sustainable economic growth goals of Central NY Rising.”

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said,“Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative is a hands-on approach to bringing state investment to municipalities across the state. In cities like Auburn, we are working directly with communities to identify projects that will have a real impact. Over the last eight years, the Governor has invested $231 million in Central New York that has created or preserved affordable housing for more than 8,000 residents. This $10 million award demonstrates that we are doing more than ever to strengthen local economies, increase access to affordable housing and improve infrastructure as we work to keep Central New York rising.”

Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Randy Wolken, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York and Deborah Stanley, President of the State University of New York at Oswego said, “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is bolstering  Auburn’s economic renaissance by investing in local assets which will attract jobs and private investment further transforming the downtown area. These strategic and diverse projects will help develop the business district, and build on our momentum to keep the Central New York region rising.”

Senator Robert E. Antonacci said, “It has been a pleasure to work with the Governor on the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Auburn is ready to grow and prosper. The downtown core of the city has been ripe for potential for years, and with these investments, the city can truly change direction and welcome additional growth. We congratulate the City of Auburn and look forward to seeing these projects come to life.”

Assembly Member Gary D. Finch said, “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has helped dozens of downtowns across the state create momentum for positive change. It’s Auburn’s turn today as we recognize the important projects that will be funded to make our city better for visitors, workers and residents. I thank Governor Cuomo and the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council for recognizing the importance of Auburn to the entire state.”

Cayuga County Legislature Chair Tucker Whitman said, “Auburn’s businesses and residents have ample reason to be proud today. With these investments, our downtown will be brought back to life. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has shown time and again that smart economic development policies can foster real change in communities, and I am excited to see the progress take place in Auburn.”

Auburn Mayor Michael D. Quill said, “I am always proud of the work we do in Auburn, but today is an especially proud day. We are seeing real economic development in our downtown thanks to Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. These projects will amplify our city’s best features and put long-term plans in place to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy what we have to offer.”

For more information on the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, go to:

Accelerating CNY Rising

Today’s announcement complements “Central NY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $5.6 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. 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 Syracuse, Oswego and Auburn as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Central NY Rising with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs. More information is available here.