OC Cities Compete for $10 M State Downtown Revitalization Grant

By Holly Kellum
Holly Kellum
Holly Kellum
Washington Correspondent
Holly Kellum is a Washington correspondent for NTD. She has worked for NTD on and off since 2012.
May 11, 2016 Updated: May 11, 2016

MIDDLETOWN—Representatives from Middletown, Port Jervis, and the Village of Goshen said after a May 9 information session on a $10 million state grant for revitalizing downtowns, they will all be applying.

The grant totals $100 million but will be split up between the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC), which will be in charge of selecting one municipality from its region. Orange County falls into the Mid-Hudson region, which includes Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties.

This is the first year the state has done this Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), which is meant to “transform long-forgotten areas into dynamic neighborhoods where tomorrow’s workforce will want to live, work, and raise a family,” the governor’s press release says.

The 8-page application asks municipalities to define a boundary, which could be a neighborhood, a district, or an entire downtown, and demonstrate that it has attractive features, potential for job growth, and would serve a “sizeable,” diverse population within “easy reach” of the area.

Municipalities can submit as many areas as they want, provided they have a well-defined boundary, and can even combine more than one municipality in an application if the defined region crosses borders.

Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano said they had identified the downtown Business Improvement District (BID) and the former state psychiatric center site as targets for their application. “Or in some way combining the two, which will be linked by the Heritage Trail,” he said, referring to plans to extend the Heritage Trail from Goshen to Middletown.

Some of the criteria the REDC is looking at in a strong application, said Megan Taylor, executive director of the Mid-Hudson REDC, is private and public investment that the state grant can leverage.

DeStefano pointed to two breweries, one that opened last fall and another one that is set to open this summer, as well as an indoor/outdoor soccer complex, and Fei Tian school as examples of private investment already happening in the city. He said there are more businesses looking for light industrial space as well.

I think we’re in a good position to compete.
— Joseph DeStefano, Middletown Mayor

The almost-complete King Street Pedestrian Walkway downtown, the skate park along the Heritage Trail that is out for bid, and plans to develop more parking in the city were examples, he said, of public investment.

Affordable housing is another area that the REDC will be looking at, and DeStafano said they have plenty of that in the works. He pointed to several downtown buildings that the city would like see developed for that use, as well as the former hat factory on Mill Street that is being renovated and another building added on to make 42 affordable apartments.

“We’re excited about the criteria that is laid out,” DeStefano said. “I think we’re in a good position to compete.”

They have already started working with a firm from the Albany area to help them with the application, he said.

North Street in Middletown on May 11, 2016. (Holly Kellum/Epoch Times)
North Street in Middletown on May 11, 2016. (Holly Kellum/Epoch Times)

Valerie Maginsky, the executive director of the Port Jervis Community Development Agency (CDA) also attended the meeting and said after the City Council approved it that night, they would be applying.

She had a number of ideas about which areas would be in their application, but said it would most likely include Pike Street, Front Street, and Jersey Avenue since they were part of a downtown strategic plan the city approved in 2003. Since then the City has been developing trails in its watershed property north of the downtown that is part of a larger goal to make the city a destination for outdoor recreation. Maginsky said she would like to see some funding go to that as well. 

“We want to say, ‘Well, Port Jervis is a place you can go where you can take the train, you can get off in the downtown,’ and then we need those connections between the downtown and how you get to the hiking and biking trails,” she said. 

The application does not require municipalities to spell out how they will spend the money because $300,000 of it is earmarked for urban planners, which the state will select.

Without knowing the competition, she said she feels “very good” about Port Jervis’ chance, pointing to several buildings in the downtown that are being renovated and new businesses being put in as a sign of interest and growth in the city.

“I think we have a lot of plusses,” she said.

Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddey did not come into the information session knowing if the Village would apply, but by the next day had already started on a rough draft of the application.

He said they would be applying for the downtown corridor, roughly West Main Street and Greenwich Avenue between Hatfield Lane and Erie Street.

Without listing specific projects, he said they would be looking to increase public/private partnerships, beautification initiatives, walkability, cultural events, and “ways for residents to want to spend time downtown.”

“The odds definitely aren’t in anyone’s favor when you have seven counties and only one community that is going to be chosen,” he said in a phone interview. “[But] I do believe that the intent of the grant, of downtown revitalization, aligns with a lot of our current goals and initiatives.”

This was the third DRI information session the Mid-Hudson REDC has held and by that point 31 municipalities had expressed interest in applying.

Notices of intent to apply are due May 13 and applications by May 27. Sometime at the end of June, the Mid-Hudson REDC will invite the top candidates in for interviews, the number of which is dependent on the response, Taylor said.

To contact this reporter, email holly.kellum@epochtimes.com

Holly Kellum
Washington Correspondent
Holly Kellum is a Washington correspondent for NTD. She has worked for NTD on and off since 2012.