As of July 26, 2023, $200 million in new funding became available to renew communities via New York state’s two signature downtown revitalization and economic recovery programs: $100 million each for Round 7 of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and Round 2 of the NY Forward program, which focuses on revitalizing smaller and rural downtowns.
“These two programs have created a wave of revitalization that is sweeping across the state with no signs of slowing,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said.
“The programs are not only reinvigorating downtowns, but they are also making our regions and the state as a whole a world-class destination for businesses, families and tourists. The programs are fulfilling the original vision for the DRI of creating a critical mass of vibrant downtowns of all shapes, sizes and characters in each region to entice businesses to invest and locate in New York State,” she aded.
Governor Hochul also hosted the state’s first-ever forum in Syracuse on the past, present and future of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) and NY Forward programs. The forum, entitled “A Retrospective for the Future of the State’s DRI and NY Forward Communities,” featured mayors from communities selected in the first five rounds of the DRI, as well as private stakeholders engaged and invested in the DRIs, who will provide advice, insights, lessons-learned and recommendations to inform the future of the two programs and educate prospective applicants on the benefits of participating.
New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “An investment in a downtown is an investment in economic development, quality of life, sustainability and housing that will multiply and generate dividends for years to come. Every dollar we commit through our successful DRI and New York Forward programs leverages multi-fold additional investments, in addition to supporting local governments and existing area businesses by attracting more people, families and businesses that provide a variety of amenities and jobs to the area. The formula for the DRI and NY Forward is working, representing a public/private partnership that serves as a model for the rest of the nation.”
DRI was launched in 2016 to accelerate and bolster the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all ten regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for increased local investments. Led by the Department of State (DOS), DRI communities benefit from partnerships with and coordinated technical assistance provided by New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), Empire State Development (ESD) and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative “plan-then-act” strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation. In addition to the traditional applications, this year there is a new option for two or three communities to jointly apply for one DRI award by working together on a shared revitalization at the micro-regional level.
To date, DRI has awarded a total of $700 million to 69 communities in its first six rounds and supported the creation of over 3,000 new housing units. It is estimated that every dollar invested in the DRI generates $3 in additional investments as the revitalization accelerates and projects are completed. This catalytic effect will continue well after DRI and NY Forward communities complete all their projects.
As part of last year’s budget, Governor Hochul announced the $100 million NY Forward program to build on the success of the DRI and expand its benefits to more communities across the state.
The innovative new program, which received an additional $100 million in funding in this year’s Enacted State Budget, supports a more equitable downtown recovery for New York’s smaller and rural communities with a focus on hamlet and villages. NY Forward is meant serve smaller communities and support local economies that often have a feel and charm that is distinct from larger, metropolitan urban centers funded through DRI. To date, NY Forward has awarded a total of $100 million to 24 communities in its first round.
Like with DRI, DOS and an assigned consultant will work with NY Forward communities through a planning and technical assistance process to develop a slate of readily implementable projects. NY Forward differs, however, by providing additional one-to-one technical assistance to support communities in developing their full applications and throughout the implementation process. NY Forward also offers two funding options for each region—two $4.5 million awards or one $4.5 million award and two $2.25 million awards.
The similarities and differences between the DRI and NY Forward programs are further described in an educational brochure, which is available on the DRI and NY Forward websites.
Local and state leaders praised the new funding:
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward program are breathing new life into our downtown areas by adopting locally-focused strategies shaped by residents, businesses and stakeholders. These programs continue to create successful projects in communities across the state, and have been the catalyst needed to generate new investments and spur economic growth.”
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward program have directed nearly a billion dollars to the revitalization of 93 communities across the state, and today’s announcement ensures that even more communities will soon experience the holistic benefits these innovative programs create. Thank you to Governor Hochul for her continued commitment to economic revitalization through smart, targeted and strategic investments in every region of New York.”
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “Governor Hochul’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward programs are a critical part of a comprehensive statewide economic development strategy that continues to bring public and private investment to New York’s communities. NYSERDA is pleased to provide technical assistance support for projects to achieve improved energy performance, resiliency, and healthier buildings as part of overall plans to revive downtown neighborhoods and make communities more attractive places to live, work and visit.”
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said, “Oswego is enormously proud to be the first in New York State to complete our Downtown Revitalization Imitative with all twelve projects constructed and successfully operating. The DRI has truly transformed our community, infusing millions of dollars in private investment in new buildings, attractions, and improvements to our downtown and positions Oswego for long term success and continued growth for years to come. I strongly encourage other municipalities state-wide to apply for these programs in the future to assist with reimagining and revitalizing communities with so much unlocked potential. I appreciate the support from Governor Hochul, the Department of State, and all the community partners who came together to make the DRI so successful for Oswego.”
Robert Simpson, President and CEO of CenterState said, “The state’s investment in our communities through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the NY Forward programs are what helped our region create a strong, more vibrant sense of place. As we prepare for the impact and growth that is rapidly approaching these renewed investments will enable us to continue to advance projects that support our high quality of life and attract talent. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for her leadership and to the local partners who are leading the projects that maximize these investments for all.”
SUNY Oswego‘s Officer in Charge, Dr. Mary C. Toale, said, “New York State’s investment in its communities, large and small, through the innovative DRI and NY Forward programs is both visionary and effective. Oswego, a round one award recipient, is the first city to complete all of its DRI projects. This accomplishment is a reflection of the City’s leadership, steadfast commitment to working together with all community stakeholders, including SUNY Oswego, and its strategic planning and project management. Thank you, Governor Hochul, for your leadership!”
Ryan Silva, Executive Director of the New York State Economic Development Council said, “Since its inception, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) has leverage billions in private sector investment, reimagined neighborhoods, transformed communities, and improved quality of life across NYS. The DRI and the NY Forward program have facilitated public private partnerships and empowered local cities, towns, and villages to develop plans and identify projects that will shape the future of their communities. The NYSEDC and our membership applaud Governor Hochul’ s leadership and continued support of investing and supporting economic development through these programs.”
This year’s funding brings the total amount of State investment across all rounds of the programs to $1 billion since 2016. Together, the two programs have awarded $800 million in funding to 93 communities across every region of the state.
The deadline to apply is September 29, 2023 at 4 p.m.
Photo of downtown Beacon, New York courtesy of Visit Main Street Beacon.