July 26, 2023 saw the completion of Oswego, New York‘s final Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) project at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Splash Indoor Water Park Resort.
The Splash Indoor Water Park Resort is a four-season family destination that is connected to the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center overlooking the Oswego River/Canal, linking the project to the city’s cherished riverfront and its rich maritime history as the Port City.
This connective quality makes the water park far more revitalizing that the average isolated redevelopment project, as documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity.
The completion of this project makes Oswego the first DRI community in the state to complete all of its DRI projects.
“With this ribbon cutting ceremony for the Splash Indoor Water Park Resort, Oswego has completed a total of 10 projects to improve its downtown and become a model DRI community,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said.
“Oswego’s experience showcases the critical public and private partnerships needed to ensure the success of the program and spur economic development throughout the region. This success story can serve as an example for other communities as we look to the future of our DRI and NY Forward programs and continue working to build a better future for all New Yorkers,” she added.
Splash builds on existing anchor developments and attractions in the downtown—many of which were funded by the DRI and other State programs—to strengthen the appeal of the downtown as a fun, family-friendly destination.
New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “You can feel the energy, vibrancy and excitement created by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects when you visit Oswego. The city has masterfully chosen and integrated a variety of projects that exemplify the vision and goals of the DRI, laying the groundwork for much more investment to come as the revitalization process continues to unfold and serving as a shining example for other communities participating in this program. Congratulations to the City of Oswego on this significant accomplishment.”
The DRI provided $500,000 for the project, which was implemented by Shane Broadwell of the Broadwell Hospitality Group. Broadwell estimates that Splash will create 60-70 jobs in peak season. The water park will also support surrounding businesses by attracting more visitors to the area.
Oswego received a $10 million DRI award in the first round of the program in 2016. The City’s Strategic Investment Plan focused on increasing downtown housing, expanding small businesses, and providing entertainment and dining options for all ages, while maximizing access to its treasured waterfront.
To date, Oswego’s projects have created over 200 units of housing for households of all income levels, 12 commercial spaces and over 150 new full-time and part-time jobs.
As part of the DRI, Oswego has completed a total of 10 revitalization projects:
- Construct the “Splash” Indoor Water Park Resort – $500,000 DRI Award; $5,600,000 Total Project Cost: Constructed the new “Splash” Indoor Water Park Resort to attract visitors and create a four-season family destination downtown, linked to an existing hotel and event/conference center near the waterfront.
- Create Riverwalk, a Multi-Building Mixed-Use Development on West First Street – $2,000,000 DRI Award; $9,500,000 Total Project Cost: Created 32 market rate apartments with 28 indoor parking spaces in Oswego. Riverwalk created 20 full time and 25 part time jobs in Oswego with a payroll of over $700,000, in addition to 10 full time independent stylists starting their own business in the Riverwalk Salon Suites.
- Create Harbor View Square, a Mixed-Income Redevelopment – $740,000 DRI Award; $29,200,000 Total Project Cost: Completed a mixed-income redevelopment of brownfield site projects, providing 75 housing units and 8,000 sq. ft. of commercial space at 68 West First Street in Oswego.
- Transform Midtown Plaza into East Lake Commons, a Mixed-Use Gateway Development – $2,000,000 DRI Award; $25,200,000 Total Project Cost: Demolished the existing structures on the site, which had long been an eyesore for the downtown, and replaced them with a new attractive anchor development, creating 2 permanent full-time jobs and 70 housing units between 50 – 80% of the Area Median Income.
- Restore the Historic Buckhout-Jones Building & Renovate the Children’s Museum of Oswego – $480,000 DRI Award; $3,200,000 Total Project Cost: Stabilized and restored the façade of the historic Buckhout-Jones building located in the center of downtown. Renovated space and installed hands-on educational and cultural exhibits for the Children’s Museum of Oswego, located on the ground floor of the building. This project created 13 jobs and converted 5 former hotel rooms into residential units.
- Transform the Historic Cahill Building with Housing and a Restaurant – $700,000 DRI Award; $1,750,000 Total Project Cost: Stabilized the Cahill building, the oldest structure in Oswego, and created 7 residences and 2 commercial spaces, as well as 2 part-time jobs.
- Improve the River Walk & Create a Pocket Park – $680,000 DRI Award; $930,000 Total Project Cost: Constructed improvements to the riverfront trail network to provide better connections to the downtown and offer more user amenities, including new fencing, landscaping, lighting, seating, signage and new access points. Created a pocket park on city property in a key central downtown location—adjacent to a cluster of DRI projects surrounding the site – with a flexible public space for community gatherings and public events space. This space now hosts a weekly summer concert series that is well attended by the community.
- Create the L.I.T.A.T.R.O. (Luck Is The Ability To Recognize Opportunity) Mixed-Use Building with Residential Units, Retail Space and a Restaurant – $1,000,000 DRI Award; $7,200,000 Total Project Cost: Redeveloped a single-story Global Buffet building on the corner of W. First Street and W. Bridge Street into a two-story mixed-use building, creating 20 housing units, 42 new jobs and a roof-top restaurant and deck.
- Establish the Oswego Downtown Improvement Fund – $600,000 DRI Award; $933,483 Total Project Cost: Actively supported local business growth, building renovation and outdoor programming through a revolving loan and combined grant/loan fund.
- Perform a Complete Streets Makeover on West Bridge Street -$1,000,000 DRI Award; $1,600,000 Total Project Cost: Created a safe, attractive and appealing connection between upper downtown and the waterfront area with new features such as sidewalks that are ADA-compliant, crosswalks and sidewalk bump-outs, street striping, and green infrastructure.
The Oswego DRI exemplifies the program’s vision and goals by ensuring that all projects synergize with one another and leverage additional private and public sector investments well beyond the initial $10 million DRI award. The $10 million investment in DRI projects in Oswego leveraged $63.6 million in additional private sector investments — more than a 6-to-1 return on investment. As a result, the Department of State produced a case study on the Oswego DRI, which is available here.
Other state and local leaders joined in praising Oswego’s revitalization:
Owner of Splash Indoor Water Park Resort and Broadwell Hospitality Group Shane Broadwell said, “Splash Indoor Water Park Resort is thrilled to be the culminating project of a tremendous renaissance that has taken place in the Oswego community, as a result of New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Our $5.6 million project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the DRI and other State programs, and we are truly grateful for those partnerships. With the opening of our water park, we have not only seen the enthusiasm of our visiting families, but Splash has also provided new opportunities within the community, creating 60-70 jobs during peak seasons, and bolstering the appeal of our downtown as a fun, family-friendly destination.”
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “Economic development is more than just job and industry growth – it’s also about enhancing our community centers in ways that make them more attractive for residents, visitors, and businesses alike, and Oswego has accomplished this with the opening of the new “Splash” Indoor Water Park. With the completion of this exciting project, Oswego has reimagined its waterfront into a vibrant and attractive city center. Congratulations to the City of Oswego for hitting this exciting milestone.”
Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Today’s ribbon cutting marks the completion of the State’s $10 million DRI commitment to Oswego, the first municipality to reach this milestone under this program. HCR is proud to have played a role in an initiative that created new housing opportunities for residents across the income spectrum in this beautiful and resurgent city. Congratulations to all those who have been involved in the planning and execution of this initiative — your work will undoubtedly benefit generations of Oswego’s residents, businesses, and visitors.”
Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Randy Wolken, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York and Le Moyne College President Linda M. LeMura, said, “The Governor’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative has done exactly what it was designed to do. The $10 million in DRI funding helped to fuel an array of targeted projects, promoting economic growth and creating a vibrant downtown area where people want to live, work, and play. This beautiful waterfront community designed and has expertly executed its focused, community-driven strategic plan – one that will continue to benefit both residents and visitors alike for generations to come.”
State Senator John W. Mannion said, “I’m thrilled to see the vision for Oswego’s downtown become a reality. As the first city to complete its Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Oswego is setting the example for cities and neighborhoods across the State. I’m looking forward to walking along the newly improved River Walk and I extend my congratulations to the city officials and stakeholders who developed and executed this winning plan. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership and commitment to Central New York.”
Assemblymember William A. Barclay said, “Oswego’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative has proven to be an overwhelming success. The completed projects, including the newly minted ‘Splash’ Indoor Water Park Resort, will continue to create jobs, attract visitors and highlight the natural beauty of our great region. I am especially proud of the hard work that went into these projects, and I have no doubt they will have a lasting impact on the quality of our communities and local economy. Congratulations to all those involved in bringing these projects to life.”
Oswego Mayor William J. “Billy” Barlow, Jr. said, “The SPLASH Indoor waterpark brings yet another unique amenity to Oswego as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The indoor water park is a significant economic asset for the community as we can better market ourselves as a true year round destination, while improving the quality of life for our own residents by providing an additional fun activity. I thank the Broadwell Hospitality Group along with the State of New York for working with city government to bring this project to fruition and know it’ll serve as a great asset for our region moving forward.”
Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sara Broadwell said, “The “Splash” Indoor Water Park Resort creates jobs in Oswego but more importantly it contributes to Oswego’s quality of life. The state’s investments in Oswego through the DRI have helped create a more dynamic community that everyone can enjoy. This helps all of Oswego’s small businesses as it attracts new residents and tourists to our city on a daily basis. We look forward to supporting the new water park and ensuring its success in Oswego.”
Downtown Revitalization Initiative
The Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) was created in 2016 to accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all ten regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for investment.
Led by the Department of State with assistance from Empire State Development, Homes and Community Renewal and he New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative “plan-then-act” strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation and results in compact, walkable downtowns that are a key ingredient to helping New York State rebuild its economy from the effects of COVID-19, as well as to achieving the State’s bold climate goals by promoting the use of public transit and reducing dependence on private vehicles.
In the first five years of the program, the state committed $600 million, investing in 59 downtowns ripe for revitalization that have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, greater economic and housing diversity and opportunity.
Photo is courtesy of Splash Indoor Water Park Resort.