The city of Peekskill in Westchester County, New York invites people to “Take a Peek … Discover Peekskill!” This community of about 24,000 folks was known to be an early American industrial center, primarily for its iron plow and stove products.
Many of their traditional industries are now gone, and they have long wanted to revitalize their Downtown Central Business District and their transit-oriented waterfront district. These two areas boast cultural and educational institutions, an award-winning waterfront and parks system, and a core string of restaurants and boutique retailers. Niche markets in entertainment, fine and digital art, culture, craft food and beverages, sports and recreation, waterfront tourism, and personal services have emerged in recent years and serve as a solid foundation upon which to continue the community’s revitalization.
On August 13, 2019, that dream took a major step forward when Peekskill won $10 million from the state to revitalize their downtown and waterfront. They were the Mid-Hudson winner of the fourth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which chooses one community from each of the state’s ten regions to receive its share of the annual funding of $100 million.
“With the downtown revitalization initiative, we challenged local governments to propose innovative ideas to create jobs and drive economic growth,” Governor Cuomo said. “Peekskill proposed a brilliant plan that builds on their natural resources including the beautiful waterfront – a magnet that draws people and businesses to the area. And they demonstrated they have the secret ingredient: the capacity to actually get it done. This investment will help Peekskill utilize these assets to maximize their full potential.”
The prize is meant to help communities boost their economies by transforming downtowns into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation will want to live, work and raise a family.
“Peekskill has so much to offer with arts, entertainment, and restaurants along the waterfront,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “This significant funding as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative will continue to grow the downtown area and increase tourism in the area. Through the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, local projects will build on the city’s employment and recreational opportunities, increasing quality of life and strengthening the local economy.”
The DRI award will enable Peekskill to build on these successes with strengthened pedestrian amenities that link existing community assets and increased offerings in tourism, the arts, media, and light manufacturing that create employment and training opportunities for a range of skill and wage levels.
Dr. Donald Christian, Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and SUNY New Paltz President, said, “This $10 million investment will improve Peekskill’s local infrastructure and foster its new development district, helping to create a sustainable downtown that contributes to the economy in Westchester County and the Mid-Hudson region. I am happy to see Peekskill receive this award today and look forward to seeing the many projects there that will benefit from Downtown Revitalization Initiative investment.”
The Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council went through a competitive review process of proposals from communities throughout the region and considered all seven criteria below before recommending Peekskill as its nominee for winner:
- The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
- The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
- There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
- The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;
- The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
- The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan; and
- The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.
Peekskill now joins the cities of Middletown, Kingston and New Rochelle, which were the Mid-Hudson winners in the first three DRI rounds, respectively. With the downtown revitalization initiative, we challenged local governments to propose innovative ideas to create jobs and drive economic growth.
Peekskill will now begin the process of developing a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown with up to $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 will lead the effort, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners.
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “This $10 million investment from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative will help build a stronger future for the city of Peekskill and the entire Mid-Hudson region. Through this strategic program, Governor Cuomo is able to direct state resources towards the creative projects that are breathing new life into our cities, towns and villages.”
The Strategic Investment Plan for downtown Peekskill will examine local assets and opportunities and identify economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation. The downtown Peekskill Strategic Investment Plan will guide the investment of DRI grant funds in revitalization projects that will advance the community’s vision for its downtown and that can leverage and expand upon the state’s $10 million investment. Plans for the DRI’s fourth round will be complete in 2020.
Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey said, “This is a wonderful day for Peekskill. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, our city has an opportunity to build on what we’ve accomplished and forge a great new future for our community. This investment will create lasting improvements that will attract more residents, prompt businesses to invest here and entice visitors to see what we have to offer.”
Photo of Hudson River Valley near Peekskill courtesy of riverhouseinpeekskill.com.