4 New York communities get $40 million for revitalization projects that repurpose, renew and reconnect assets in historic downtowns

In August of 2019, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced transformational projects for the communities of Auburn, New Rochelle, and Downtown Brooklyn and Central Islip.

Each is using their $10 million share of $40 million in awards from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).


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.

The projects to be funded in Auburn 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.

New Rochelle

New Rochelle has a vibrant arts and culture scene, and the city is working to transform its southern neighborhoods to increase walkability and accessibility of its downtown district,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “Investment in these projects will improve connectivity, linking downtown with the Lincoln Avenue Corridor, provide residents with new recreational opportunities, and enhance quality of life. We are focused on revitalizing the Mid-Hudson region by strategically supporting economic development that continues to attract businesses and strengthen the economy for generations to come.

The projects to be funded in New Rochelle through the DRI include:

  • Install Complete Streets Amenities and Traffic Calming Measures along the Lincoln Avenue Corridor: Improve the Lincoln Avenue corridor’s accessibility, appearance, and safety for those traveling by foot, bicycle, or vehicle through complementary circulation improvements between Webster Avenue and North Avenue. Improvements may include new or improved crosswalks, pedestrian ramps, curb extensions, traffic calming measures, signage, a bike path, designated bike crossings, the elimination of parking at key intersections, revised road geometry, reconsideration of speed limits, and new and relocated bus stops.
  • Revise Zoning to Encourage Neighborhood-Scale Development: Establish a new zoning overlay district in the Lincoln Avenue Corridor area to encourage a greater mix of residential and commercial uses and pedestrian-friendly urban design. This effort will include related planning studies, required environmental review, and a robust public engagement process.
  • The Linc: Transform Memorial Highway into Public Open Space: Remove and re-purpose the eastbound portion of NYS Route 5 as public open space, providing residents with recreation opportunities and laying the groundwork for the development of the proposed recreation center. DRI funding will be used for temporary barriers, signage, striping, and the removal of asphalt and paving.
  • Create a Black Box Theater and Art Education Center: Establish a new community performance and arts education venue on the second floor of a redeveloped former historic film house at 587 Main Street to provide cultural programming to residents, attract visitors to the downtown, and serve as a cultural anchor on New Rochelle’s Main Street. The project will include interior fit-outs to accommodate amenities such as a theater, exhibition space, and a coffee shop.
  • Upgrade Lincoln Park with Public Comfort Station: Construct a public comfort station adjacent to the Lincoln Park pool house to serve users of the recently installed play equipment and basketball courts, and to support the implementation of the Lincoln Park Master Plan.
  • Install Amenities in a Park created to serve a New Affordable Housing Development: Install amenities in a park under development on the corner of Winthrop Avenue and Brook Street to provide residents of the new, adjacent 288-unit affordable housing development and the broader community with a safe, attractive, and accessible space for gathering and recreation. Examples of amenities include a playground, basketball court, game table area, grass lawns, shade trees, benches, and lighting.

Downtown Brooklyn

Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley said, “Downtown Brooklyn is a modern-day Cinderella story. It was once a place where not many people ventured but today it has become one of the strongest local economies in New York. Brooklyn is thriving and with initiatives such as the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, we will continue to thrive. Downtown Brooklyn is not only ready, willing, and able but eager to begin our next chapter in solidifying ourselves as the premier location in the city for both businesses and New Yorkers.

The projects to be funded in Downtown Brooklyn through the DRI include:

  • Improve Streetscapes and Pedestrian Safety along Tillary, Navy, and Park Corridors: Create pedestrian-friendly streetscapes along the Tillary, Navy, and Park corridors, addressing the enduring impact on a formerly cohesive neighborhood of the construction of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, by reconnecting the communities surrounding Commodore Barry Park and the Brooklyn Navy Yard with Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, the BAM Cultural District, and other nearby destinations. This project will result in safe pedestrian crossings on St. Edwards Street and at the intersection of Tillary and Navy Street, with potential improvements including improved traffic configurations, wayfinding signs, bike lanes, seating, planters and drainage systems.
  • Transform Walt Whitman Library into a Modern Community Hub: Renovate and expand outdated program space at a historic Brooklyn Public Library Branch to support job training and community programming, providing flexible spaces responsive to the way patrons use a public library in the 21st Century. The upgrades to the interior of the 7,000-squarefoot facility include demolition and relocation of the circulation desk, renovation of the community room, floor replacement, furniture upgrades, shelving improvements, electrical upgrades, and improved layout of the children’s, teen, and adult sections and new mezzanine spaces.
  • Upgrade Commodore Barry Park with Better Access and Modern Play Spaces: Build on recent and pending improvements to Brooklyn’s oldest neighborhood park with improved access and modern play spaces, supporting the space’s routine use as a prominent community gathering place and hub of cultural activity.
  • Create a Digital Tech Center at the Ingersoll Community Center: Transform the Ingersoll Community Center’s multi-purpose conference space into a full digital lab and gathering space to support new job readiness and arts programming. DRI funding will be used to relocate the center’s server room and purchase computer equipment and furniture.
  • Improve Accessibility to the Brooklyn Navy Yard: Reconstruct the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Cumberland Street Gate to improve sight-lines, enable multi-model access, and create a safer environment for pedestrians. The project will enhance connectivity to this prominent and growing commercial, employment, and community anchor area.
  • Create a Public Art and Placemaking Fund: Establish a grant program focused on public art, placemaking, and cultural access to create new opportunities for local artists and cultural organizations to expand their reach to residents, workers, and visitors. Potential projects include large-scale art and placemaking installations and ADA capital improvements to public cultural spaces such as assisted listening devices, and accessible ticket counters, doors and ramps.

Central Islip

Empire State Development President, CEO & Chairman Howard Zemsky said, “Public transit is a critical part of economic development, and Central Islip’s DRI will leverage previous state projects like the LIRR’s Double Track and Third Track to help revitalize this community. From investing in infrastructure for new development and enhancing pedestrian safety to realizing transit-oriented mixed-use developments, these DRI projects will usher in a true transformation.

The projects to be funded in Central Islip through the DRI include:

  • Enhance the Pedestrian Experience in the Downtown Corridor: Install streetscape improvements along Carleton Avenue between Suffolk Avenue and Smith Street to enhance pedestrian safety and experience of the corridor, and to strengthen connections between downtown and other community resources. Improvements include corridor-wide amenities, as well as site-specific lighting, signage and trees defining a northern gateway to the corridor; a new Clayton Place Plaza adjacent to the fire department; and lighting at additional key locations.
  • Install Infrastructure along Carleton Avenue: Introduce a sewer system in downtown Central Islip to eliminate current limitations to the area’s development and support a more varied and vibrant mix of commercial activities, including ‘wet uses’ like restaurants. This project consists of installing new sewer line along Carleton Avenue between Suffolk Avenue and Smith Street, promoting dense, mixed-use development along the corridor and laying the foundation for future investment.
  • Redevelop Site of Former Train Station into a Mixed-Use Development: Transform the site of a former Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station into a transit-friendly, mixed-use development providing community members with affordable and market-rate apartments, retail space, a cultural facility, and a public plaza – all accessible from the current LIRR station. DRI funds will help the Town of Islip secure a developer for the site and offset costs associated with site acquisition, on-site improvements, vertical construction, parking, and gap financing.
  • Create a Central Islip History Trail: Celebrate Central Islip’s history by developing a five-mile hiking and biking trail extending from the Federal Courthouse to the Historic Heines Homestead, with interpretive signage at historic sites along the way, encouraging historical tourism and active lifestyles. DRI funds will be used for trail costs within the DRI area, such as signage identifying six downtown sites, audio/phone enhancement, and distance markers.
  • Construct a Downtown Mixed-Use Development: Construct a 26,000 square foot mixed-use multi-story building at 108 and 110 Carleton Avenue with ground-floor retail or commercial use and upper-story affordable apartments, parking, providing opportunities for downtown living, enabling new commercial uses, and increasing foot traffic.
  • Create a Mixed-Use Development on a Prominent Downtown Corner: Build a two-story, mixed-use building on a highly visible corner of the corridor at 69 and 75 Carleton Avenue to provide opportunities for new commercial uses, parking, a mix of studio and one-bedroom residences for a multi-generational community, and a downtown destination for visitors and residents.
  • Establish a Commercial Property Improvement Fund: Establish a grant program supporting the rehabilitation and improvement of buildings within the DRI area to support owners’ and merchants’ investment in the Carleton Avenue area, shift perception of the corridor, and attract new businesses, activities, and customers. Potential projects include façade enhancement, signage, or interior fit-out improvements.

Photo (via DRI) shows downtown New Rochelle, NY.

See the Downtown Revitalization Initiative website.

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