The downtowns of two New York communities are now getting revitalized via 19 mixed-use, transit and pedestrianization projects

On May 11, 2021, it was announced that the communities of Peekskill and Baldwin in the state of New York received funding for 19 transformational projects designed to revitalize their downtown areas.

The 12 projects in Peekskill and 7 projects in Baldwin will incorporate mixed-used transit-oriented development, improve pedestrian connections, and support small businesses to create places where residents, commuters and visitors want to shop, dine, and recreate. The investments are part of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

As long-time readers of REVITALIZATION are well aware, in 2016, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched the Downtown Revitalization Initiative to aggressively accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods by serving as catalysts for investment in all ten regions of the state.

We are focused on building New York State back better than ever before and these strategic investments in Peekskill and Baldwin will play an important role in our economic resurgence,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Downtown Revitalization Initiative continues to work with and empower local communities to reimagine their cities to create a brighter future for present and future generations. By investing in the infrastructure, we can help attract even more new businesses, residents and visitors to these areas.

In the first four years of the DRI, the State has committed $400 million to invest in downtowns that are ripe for revitalization and have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, greater economic and housing diversity, and opportunity. Participating communities are nominated by the state’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils based on the downtown’s potential for transformation, and each community is awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization. The DRI is chaired by New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. Communities receive support from private sector experts and a team of state agency staff led by the Department of State in close partnership with Empire State Development, and NYS Homes and Community Renewal.

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is strengthening communities in the Hudson Valley, on Long Island and across the state, making them great destinations to work, play and raise a family,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “A healthy downtown is vital to a community’s overall economic health, especially as we enter a post-pandemic future. The projects announced in Peekskill and Baldwin today will change the trajectories of these communities and help them build back better, stronger and more resilient for the future.

Peekskill – Mid-Hudson Region

Peekskill was named a DRI Round 4 winner in August 2019. Peekskill seeks to build upon its recent successes creating a downtown center with attractive features creating an active downtown, a strong and unique sense of place with market diversification in tourism and leisure activities, the arts, light industry and media.

Through the DRI, the city intends to crystallize its identity as a regional arts destination, a vibrant hub for businesses and jobs, and a center for tourism. The DRI also aims to improve connectivity between the scenic waterfront, transit centers, and the downtown mixed-use community. Key DRI projects include infrastructure, lighting, and pedestrian safety improvements between downtown and the waterfront integrated with efforts to support artists, creative businesses, and bolster Peekskill’s identity as an arts center. Investing in strategic DRI projects will promote additional redevelopment and establish Peekskill as the ultimate small city in which to live, work, and raise a family.

The specific projects to be funded through the Peekskill DRI include:

  • Redevelop 41 N Division Street as a Mixed-Use Building Housing the Peekskill Arts Center, Multi-media Production Spaces, and Apartments – $1,638,752: Redevelopment of 41 N Division Street as the primary home of the Peekskill Arts Center on the ground floor, multi-media production spaces in the basement level, and new micro-apartments on the two upper floors.
  • Transform the Kiley Youth Center as a New Location of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester – $1,500,000: Renovate the Kiley Youth Center as a new location for the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester. Upgrades include interior/exterior improvements, utilities, and structural repairs providing offices, an art room, computer labs, and cafeteria.
  • Revitalize the Paramount Theater – $1,000,000: Renovations to the building facade and marquee, improved interior spaces for audience and artists, expanded hospitality programs, and upgraded equipment and utilities. Interior upgrades include lighting and sound equipment, stage rigging, accessible seating, flexible seating, and box office renovations.
  • Downtown Revitalization Fund – $700,000: Creation of a fund to help small businesses in the DRI area make capital improvements. Eligible activities include facade improvements, small business creation and expansion, solar installations, and adaptation to social distancing guidelines.
  • Transform Downtown Peekskill with Public Art – $500,000: Series of public art installations throughout Downtown Peekskill through a locally administered selection process involving long-time arts organizations in the city. The joint venture includes three proposals, Enlighten Peekskill, Making Connections, and the Five Arches Mural.
  • Implement Public Wi-Fi in Lepore and Pugsley Parks and Low-Cost Internet Service for Bohlmann Towers and Barham Senior Houses – $380,000: Create a mesh Wi-Fi network to offer low-cost internet to residents of Bohlmann Towers and Barham House Apartments, free access to a local resource gateway, and free Wi-Fi access along the Main St. Corridor including Lepore and Pugsley parks.
  • Create a Downtown Civic Hub and Improve the Downtown Public Realm – $1,626,000: Create the Peekskill Plaza on S. Division St by converting two lanes to a pedestrian civic space, redesign Gazebo Plaza as the civic heart of Peekskill, improve streetscapes to enhance pedestrian safety and beautify downtown Peekskill.
  • Improve Connections for Pedestrians and Cyclists between the Waterfront and Downtown – $1,102,000: Strengthen the connection between the Waterfront and the Downtown Core by improving connectivity and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists on Railroad Avenue, S. Water Street, Central Avenue, and South Street. Components include bike lanes, curb extensions, crosswalks, bioswales, bike racks, LED info signage, street trees, and pedestrian signals.
  • Create a Marketing and Branding Strategy with Wayfinding Signage – $500,000: Develop a brand for Peekskill that describes the City’s history and culture, create a marketing strategy to communicate the City’s brand and attract new residents, businesses, and visitors, and implement components of the marketing strategy with wayfinding signage.
  • Enhance Pugsley Park as a Downtown Attraction – $313,248: Improvements to Pugsley Park including creation of new plazas and seating areas, pedestrian-scaled lighting; small-scale play equipment to attract children, trash cans, bike parking, plantings of trees, shrubs, and flowers, and infrastructure to support power hook-ups and watering.
  • Enhance Monument Park, a Gateway into Downtown Peekskill – $260,000: Monument Park would be enhanced by lighting and maintenance improvements to improve the quality of the public space for daily use by residents. The project proposal seeks DRI funding for lighting, landscaping, and LED informational sign at the bus stop.
  • Reconstruct Fleischmann Pier and Improve Charles Point Park as a Premier Waterfront Destination – $180,000: Reconstruction of Fleischmann Pier to create a new pier that will support tour boats. The project would provide funding for a second phase improvement to include floating docks for smaller vessels and transient boaters, improvements to Charles Point Park, and expanded parking area building.

Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey said, “New York State is making a big bet on the great City of Peekskill, because they know we have the people, the vision, and the community engagement necessary, to keep the City moving ever upward. Make no mistake: the State isn’t providing ten million dollars in funding by accident. They see strong, visionary leadership that is balancing growth and affordability, while remaining true to the creativity and diversity that brought us to this point. I couldn’t be more proud of the people of this City and all we have accomplished together.”

Baldwin – Long Island

Baldwin was named a DRI Round 4 winner in August 2019. Downtown Baldwin, centered on Grand Avenue, is the commercial backbone of the predominantly residential hamlet of Baldwin, located within the Town of Hempstead along the south shore of Nassau County. The Baldwin community has long recognized its assets, including transit access and transit-oriented development opportunities, historic features, and a diverse and engaged community.

Through the DRI, the community envisions Baldwin as a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, and mixed-use downtown, with an active, compact, multi-modal Long Island Rail Road Station (LIRR) station area at its center. This vision also incorporates a productive mix of land uses and innovative green infrastructure components to create a place where residents, commuters and visitors want to shop, dine, and recreate.

The specific projects to be funded through the DRI include:

  • Build a Mixed-Use Development at Milburn Plaza – $2,000,000: Redevelop 24 Sunrise Highway replacing a contaminated, used car parking lot, with a mixed-use building consisting of ground floor retail uses with 200 residential units above. Project amenities would include on-site parking facilities and a pedestrian plaza.
  • Redevelop 775 Brooklyn Avenue for Mixed-Use Transit-Oriented Development -$3,500,000: Construct a mixed-use, seven-story building accommodating 107 new residential units, 24,000 SF of commercial/office space, and 81 on-site parking stalls immediately adjacent to the Baldwin LIRR station.
  • Build a Mixed-Use Development at 2130 and 2134-2138 Grand Avenue – $1,000,000: Redevelop the largely vacant property at 2130 and 2134-2138 Grand Avenue as a five-story mixed-use development, accommodating 7,800 SF of commercial uses on the first floor and 60 residential units on the upper floors.
  • Develop Affordable Workforce Housing at Baldwin Commons – $850,000: Redevelop vacant property located at 785 Merrick Road as a 33-unit, four-story all-affordable workforce housing development known as Baldwin Commons, with ground floor amenity space such as a leasing office, mail room, lobby, and community room.
  • Provide Financial Assistance to Property Owners through a Downtown Improvement Grant Program – $600,000: Provision of a grant fund to increase opportunities for local business and property owners to invest in the renovation of building exteriors, to upgrade business entrances from rear parking areas, street frontage improvements, energy system upgrades, and interior fit-outs within the Baldwin DRI Area.
  • Improve Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Along Merrick Road – $1,500,000: Implement roadway and pedestrian safety enhancements along Merrick Road between Harrison Avenue and Pershing Boulevard to facilitate safer circulation between pedestrians and vehicular traffic along the well-traveled corridor.
  • Establish a Unique Baldwin Identity with a Branding and Marketing Program – $250,000: Implement a Downtown Baldwin Branding and Marketing Program including digital and print strategies, destination mapping, and public events to promote the unique historic, cultural, and economic assets of the Baldwin community.

Assembly Member Taylor Darling said, “The announcement today by the Governor is a proud moment for the residents of Baldwin. The revitalization of the Downtown of Baldwin will create a great atmosphere for the community to come together and enjoy what Baldwin has to offer! I look forward to the future completion of these projects.

Both communities developed a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize their downtowns with $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million DRI grant. Local Planning Committees made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders led the effort, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners.

Long Island Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair Stuart Rabinowitz, President of Hofstra University, said, “Through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, New York State is investing in downtowns across Long Island and helping these communities realize their visions. The projects announced for Baldwin will leverage private dollars to build new mixed-use transit-oriented developments to bolster Baldwin’s recovery from COVID-19.”

The Strategic Investment Plans 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.

Photo of downtown Peekskill is by Daniel Case via Wikipedia.

See Downtown Revitalization Initiative website.

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