Bell rings for Round 2 of $100M downtown initiative

We have a winner: Downtown Westbury emerged victorious in Round 1 of Albany's Downtown Revitalization Initative. Round 2 is now underway.

New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative is back for a $100 million second round.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the launch of Round 2 of the program, which will once again offer monetary and other support to the creation of Strategic Investment Plans for rebuilding efforts in 10 designated downtown communities across the state.

The initiative, part of a “comprehensive approach” to neighborhood and economic transformations across New York, looks to “build upon the successful first round,” according to the governor’s office.

Gov. Cuomo: Comprehensive revitalization strategy.

“This new downtown revitalization competition will build upon the demonstrated success of Round 1, allowing even more communities across the state to reach their full potential,” Cuomo said. “With this funding, we can provide 10 more forward-thinking communities the opportunity to transform their downtowns into vibrant economic hubs for people to live, work and raise a family.”

One downtown will be selected by each of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils. The REDCs will solicit applications for downtowns that are “ripe for revitalization” and have the potential to become “magnets” for residential redevelopment, job creation and greater economic and housing diversity, according to the governor’s office.

Communities that earned state support in Round 1 will not be eligible to win in Round 2.

Last summer, downtown Westbury was selected as the Long Island REDC’s champion, with a successful revitalization application crafted by village and state lawmakers, along with a team of regional stakeholders, earning the $10 million nod.

Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul was scheduled to visit Westbury’s Piazza Ernesto Strada Wednesday afternoon to offer an update on the village’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The DRI program is managed by Empire State Development, Albany’s main economic-development engine. Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky said the teamwork necessary to cultivate a winning strategy is “a cornerstone of our approach to economic development.”

“Last year, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative was a great success,” Zemsky, also ESD’s commissioner, said in a statement. “This second round will help even more communities create vibrant, walkable downtowns that are a magnet for the young, well-educated people and innovative businesses that strengthen and diversify local economies.”

Criteria to be considered in Round 2 selections include compact downtowns with “well-defined boundaries;” sufficient size and scope to support year-round activity; the ability to capitalize on prior downtown-redevelopment investments, and attract future ones; and “recent or impending job growth within or in close proximity” to the downtown area, according to the governor’s office.

Other factors – including “open and robust community engagement” on downtown-redevelopment strategies and being “a livable community for diverse populations of all ages” – will also be considered.

Revitalization plans and applications for Round 2 funds must be submitted to local REDCs by 4 p.m. June 14. The winners will be expected to complete their Strategic Investment Plans by early 2018.