Some trepidation about the DRI $10 million is appropriate. The last time there was a huge infusion of public money into Hudson, it destroyed neighborhoods and altered the city dramatically and irrevocably. But before making a judgment about the impact of the DRI on our city, it's important to understand the purpose and goals of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and what has been proposed in Hudson's application.
One point needs to be stressed: Hudson is not getting $10 million to do with as it pleases. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative, created by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016, has very specific goals, and those goals are outlined in a booklet published by the Regional Economic Development Councils. (Click here to access that booklet.) The booklet begins by explaining how the Downtown Revitalization Initiative came to be:
Business leaders, young professionals, entrepreneurs and retirees, among others, are increasingly calling New York’s downtown centers home because of the high quality of life and economic opportunity. According to the Brookings Institute, investing in urban centers can improve economic performance, reduce infrastructure costs, and enhance the economic well-being of surrounding areas. Regional investments through New York State’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils have created ripple effects in small-to-midsize downtowns. The result is renewed investments that, overall, will increase the local tax base, and further sustain and build upon regional economic development initiatives in ways that create broader economic and social gains.
In the spring of 2016, Governor Cuomo introduced a major new initiative--the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI)--which invested $100 million in ten downtown communities to unlock dormant potential in ways that create and propel the resurgence of urban areas throughout the state. Each of the ten Regional Economic Development Councils invited communities to apply to be considered for nomination.
To guide the use of the $10 million award, the selected communities were required to complete a Strategic Investment Plan, with the assistance of a team of expert planners funded through the program. Each completed strategic investment plan identifies goals and strategies to accomplish a clear vision for revitalization and identifies specific catalytic, implementation-ready projects that align with the community’s vision for the revitalization of their unique downtown area and are consistent with the DRI’s program goals.There were eight "desired attributes" for proposals from cities competing for the $10 million--specific criteria on which applications were judged. Hudson's application won on the basis of how well what was proposed embodied those attributes. The attributes were:
- Well-defined boundaries. The DRI program was seeking "a concentrated, defined area." For Hudson's application, this was the area below Second Street, from the southern border of the city to the northern border.
- Sufficient catchment area. A catchment area is the geographical area from which a city, service, or institution attracts population that uses its services. A sufficient catchment area is defined as having "a sizable existing or increasing population within easy reach for whom this would be the primary downtown destination."
- Past investments, future potential. The booklet lists nine things that are evidence of this attribute, among them: the existence of developable properties within the downtown, including properties that can be utilized for varying levels of housing affordability and mixed uses; potential for development of energy-efficient projects and opportunities for green jobs; investments in arts and cultural institutions and activities.
- Recent or impending job growth. The booklet calls this a "crucial characteristic" for the DRI and stresses the accessibility of new and existing jobs by foot or public transportation and diversity in job opportunities--"with different salaries and entry levels and the potential for mobility between jobs."
- Attractive physical environment. Some of the things that contribute to an attractive physical environment are housing at different levels of affordability and type; healthy and affordable food markets; accessible recreational amenities; community spaces, institutions, and events that reflect the ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity of the population; broadband accessibility; community design and/or housing that caters to all ages.
- Quality of Life policies. Among the policies listed are: "Planning and implementation documents that may include but are not limited to economic development, community development, housing affordability, affirmatively furthering fair housing and civic engagement"; "Presence of expansive non-discrimination laws and/or other protections of diverse populations."
- Support for the local vision. This attribute relates to community engagement and a commitment from local leaders and stakeholders to work together "to advance revitalization efforts."
- Readiness. The expectation is that "a range of transformative projects . . . will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years."
- Workforce Development Programs in Trades, Arts and Technology
- Dunn Warehouse & Environs
- Shovel Ready KAZ
- Public Pier Project
- Pedestrian Connectivity, Routes & Lights
What we have to look forward to in the short term is about a year's worth of planning meetings, in which the projects proposed in the application are reviewed and refined through community input. The end product will be the city's Strategic Investment Plan. Glens Falls, the city in the Capital Region that got the $10 million last year, in Round One of the DRI, has only in the past few months gotten approval for its Strategic Investment Plan, which defines the projects that will be implemented with DRI funds.
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