Union Springs Downtown
February 5, 2024

Governor Hochul Announces Central New York Winners Of Seventh Round Of Downtown Revitalization Initiative And Second Round Of NY Forward Program

Governor Hochul Announces Central New York Winners Of Seventh Round Of Downtown Revitalization Initiative And Second Round Of NY Forward Program
Aurora/Cayuga/Union Springs to Jointly Receive $10 million from Downtown Revitalization Initiative; Canastota and Brewerton to Receive $4.5 Million Each from NY Forward
Downtown Revitalization Investments are a Critical Part of the State’s Comprehensive Economic Development and Community Growth Strategy
$100 Million NY Forward Program Builds on Momentum of the Successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative to Support a More Equitable Downtown recovery for New York’s Smaller and Rural Communities

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that Aurora/Cayuga/Union Springs will jointly receive $10 million in funding as the Central New York winner of the seventh round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, as well as Canastota and Brewerton/Hastings as this year’s Central New York region NY Forward winners, receiving $4.5 million each. For Round 7 of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, each of the state's 10 economic development regions are being awarded $10 million, to make for a total state commitment of $100 million in funding and investments to help communities boost their economies by transforming downtowns into vibrant neighborhoods.

Building on the momentum of the successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the $100 million NY Forward program adopts the same "Plan-then-Act" strategy as the DRI, which couples strategic planning with immediate project implementation to support a more equitable downtown resurgence for New York's smaller and rural communities.

With the Governor’s commitment last year of $100 million each for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward, the State has now invested a combined total of $1 billion in both programs since their inception.  The Governor has proposed another $100 million for each program, totaling $200 million, in her Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget.

“New York State’s downtowns are the lifeblood of our communities,” Governor Hochul said. “The funding announced today will go a long way in uplifting our downtowns and supporting our commitment to building a better New York.”

$10 Million Downtown Revitalization Initiative Award for Aurora/Cayuga/Union Springs

Aurora, Cayuga and Union Springs took the innovative approach of combining their three nearby downtowns along Cayuga Lake into one comprehensive and mutually supporting DRI application—entitled, “Cayuga County’s Quaint Lakeside Village Corridor”—after each had applied individually for NY Forward last year.  The combined applications, and the projects identified, will create an inter-connected tourism corridor along the northeast side of Cayuga Lake, while also achieving catalytic transformations in each individual community.  Projects identified, with assistance from the Cayuga County Planning Department and significant public input, will enhance tourism and business goals through enhanced lake access, walkable neighborhoods, diverse retail and job creation, cultural and recreational opportunities, lodging and housing.  The three villages believe strongly that the region and corridor need to continue to collaborate at all levels to achieve successful and transformative revitalization and growth.

Aurora/Cayuga/Union Springs will jointly begin the process of developing a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize their downtowns 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. The Strategic Investment Plan will examine local assets and opportunities to identify economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with each community's vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation. The Strategic Investment Plan will guide the investment of DRI grant funds in revitalization projects that will advance the communities’ vision for their downtowns and that can leverage and expand upon the state's $10 million investment. Plans for the DRI's seventh round will be complete in 2024.

$4.5 Million NY Forward Awards for Canastota and Brewerton

With its historic village, proximity to the Boxing Hall of Fame and past investments, the Village of Canastota has demonstrated that it is ready for transformative growth through the NY Forward award.  The village boasts abundant recreational opportunities, including a vast trail system that intersects with several other trails, including the Empire State trail, making Canastota one of the most walkable and outdoor recreation-friendly communities in Central New York.  The village is also ideally located within close proximity to several colleges, a Thruway exit and the Syracuse and Utica metropolitan markets.  NY Forward projects identified will capitalize on these assets and enhance the Village’s rural charm and Erie Canal heritage.

The Hamlet of Brewerton—which encompasses the downtown waterfronts of the Towns of Hastings and Cicero and staddles both sides of the Oneida River—embraced the opportunity to bring the two towns together to collaborate on a joint, mutually supported application, after each had submitted separate applications last year.   Given both communities’ proximity to the Micron semi-conductor site, NY Forward investments are being viewed as the first step towards intentional, strategic and collaborative planning and development to address the opportunities and challenges presented by Micron by welcoming new residents, visitors and businesses in the years to come.  Known as the “Gateway to Oneida Lake,” Brewerton offers a wealth of water-based recreational opportunities.  Projects identified will enhance streetscape walkability and connectivity between the waterfronts, thus enhancing access to restaurants, parks, entertainment, paddling and parks.  These public improvements will lay the foundation for future private sector investments that will attract more businesses and events to the downtown and foster more Smart Growth development in an area where demand will accelerate due to Micron.

Canastota and Brewerton/Hastings will now begin the process of jointly developing a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize their downtowns. 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. The Strategic Investment Plan will examine local assets and opportunities to identify projects that align with each community's vision and that are poised for implementation. Funding will be awarded for selected projects from the Strategic Investment Plan that have the greatest potential to jumpstart revitalization and generate new opportunities for long-term growth.

New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “Our treasured historic downtowns are once again brimming with energy, vibrancy and rejuvenation thanks to the support provided by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward and the dedication of community members who make the vision for their downtowns a bright and inspiring reality.  These programs have sparked a wave of revitalization that is sweeping across the State, while improving economic opportunities, quality of life, health, tourism, socio-economic equity and community resiliency in the process.”

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “These targeted, forward-thinking plans are ambitious in scope and take full advantage of the historic past and promising future of these great New York communities. The DRI and NY Forward funding awards will serve to further catalyze economic development efforts in these areas that will broaden opportunities and draw visitors for years to come.”

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Today’s awards for Canastota, Brewerton, and Aurora/Cayuga/Union Springs will build upon existing community assets and help the Central New York region grow as both a must-visit recreational destination and a great place to live and work. The State’s investment in these deserving municipalities will encourage business growth, new housing opportunities to support an expanding workforce, and more walkable downtown districts. Through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward, Governor Hochul is energizing New York’s neighborhoods and creating a stronger, safer, and more affordable future for all New Yorkers.” 

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Strattonsaid, “Since opening in 1825, the Erie Canal has supported the growth and continued prosperity of hundreds of canalside communities across New York, including the village of Canastota and hamlet of Brewerton. As we prepare to celebrate the Erie Canal’s bicentennial in 2025 and look ahead to the canal’s third century of operation, the strategic investments being made through the NY Forward program enable these communities to capitalize on their special history, improving waterfront and trail access to provide the next generation of residents a great place to live, work, and recreate.” 

State Senator Rachel May said, “It is exciting news that several towns in Central New York have been selected to receive funding from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward. These investments will reinvigorate the center of these towns and increase the quality of life for everyone by creating jobs, retaining residents, enhancing business opportunities, and improving walkability and bicycle access. Thank you to Governor Hochul and Empire State Development for your work on this project and continued support of Central New York.”

State Senator John W. Mannion said, “I’ve continuously supported the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward programs and I’m proud of the tens of millions of dollars in well-planned investments they’ve brought to the 50th Senate District and across Central New York. I commend the thoughtful collaboration by local leaders in Hastings and Cicero – whose proximity to the Micron site requires urgent planning for smart growth and quality of life improvements, particularly along their Oneida River waterfronts. I’m grateful to Governor Kathy Hochul for her longstanding commitment to our region and for her vision and partnership in building a more vibrant and prosperous New York.”

State Senator Joseph Griffo said, “As a former mayor, I recognize the challenges that local governments face across the state. This funding will enhance and strengthen the Canastota community and help to position it for an even brighter future.“ 

Assemblymember Brian Miller said, “I am excited to see that the Village of Canastota has been awarded $4.5 Million for their successful application to the NY Forward Program. Today's announcement of the second round of funding is a game-changer, empowering their dedication to a vibrant community while enhancing the economic, recreational, and overall quality of life for all residents. They are poised to accomplish this while maintaining the village’s historical Erie Canal charm. Hats off to these municipalities for their relentless pursuit of crucial funding to fortify their community on behalf of their residents. Thank you to Governor Kathy Hochul and to everyone involved that made securing this funding a possibility.”

Assemblymember Will Barclay said, “These investments in Central New York communities, including the Hamlet of Brewerton, made through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward program highlight the state’s commitment to fostering economic growth and creating lasting positive change. This contribution is vital for transforming smaller Upstate localities, boosting redevelopment and more. I congratulate everyone who worked to set this transformational effort in motion and look forward to seeing the impact this investment will have on our local communities.”

Assemblymember Jeff Gallahan said, “The Villages of Cayuga, Aurora and Union Springs are tremendously deserving of the Downtown Revitalization award. Together they will be able to establish themselves as a regional hub for commercial activity, recreation, and tourism. This funding will give these three villages the tools needed to serve as the center of their community, while continuing to embrace their history. I commend the local leadership team for their vision in this successful effort to obtain this award and look forward to the work that remains to bring about a brighter future for these communities.” 

Cicero Town Supervisor Mike Aregano said, "United as two towns, yet bound by one community, the Town of Cicero and the Town of Hastings stand ready to breathe new life into our waterfront Community. Together, we aspire to create a welcoming haven that every individual can proudly call home.  

Cayuga Mayor Don Wilson, Jr. said, “This is one of the greatest opportunities for the village Cayuga. The hard-working middle-class people of this village deserve every bit of this investment, and we will not let opportunity go to waste.” 

Union Springs Mayor Robert Thurston Jr. said, “The Village of Union Springs would like to express its gratitude and appreciation to Governor Kathy Hochul.  Today will be a moment that are community will never forget and will have a long-lasting impact on us as well as our neighbors, the Villages of Cayuga and Aurora.   This program will provide the Village of Union Springs along with its residents, businesses, and partners, the opportunity to invest in and help further develop the downtown district. I am proud of our village’s commitment to growth and the continued support we have received, as we have planned for this remarkable occasion.  We as a community are excited and prepared to go to work and make our communities dreams come true!” 

The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council conducted a thorough and competitive review process of proposals submitted from communities throughout the region and considered all criteria below before recommending these communities as nominees:

  • 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, income, gender, identity, ability, mobility and cultural background;
  • The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life;
  • 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 Strategic Investment Plan;
  • The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for near-term implementation with an infusion of DRI or NY Forward funds; and
  • The municipality has the local capacity to manage the planning process and implementation of projects, including the ability to oversee contracts for awarded municipal projects. 

About the Downtown Revitalization Initiative

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative was created in 2016 to accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all ten regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for investment. Led by the Department of State with assistance from Empire State Development, Homes and Community Renewal and NYSERDA, the DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative "plan-then-act" strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation and results in compact, walkable downtowns that are a key ingredient to helping New York State rebuild its economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to achieving the State's bold climate goals by promoting the use of public transit and reducing dependence on private vehicles.

In the first six years of the program, the state committed $700 million in 69 downtowns that are ripe for revitalization and tat have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation and greater economic and housing diversity and opportunity. Participating communities are nominated by the state's 10 Regional Economic Development Councils based on the downtown's potential for transformation. 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 and leverage additional private and public investments. Information on the DRI is available here.

About the NY Forward Program

NY Forward is a central component of the State's economic development policy. The program works in concert with the DRI to accelerate and expand the revitalization of smaller and rural downtowns throughout the State so that all communities can benefit from the State’s revitalization efforts, regardless of size, character, needs and challenges. Both programs are creating a critical mass of vibrant downtowns in every region of the State that is enhancing economic development, quality of life and socio-economic diversity.

Once awarded, NY Forward communities are supported by a professional planning consultant and team of State agency experts led by the DOS to develop a Strategic Investment Plan that includes a slate of transformative, complementary and readily implementable projects. NY Forward projects are appropriately scaled to the size of each community; projects may include building renovation and redevelopment, new construction or creation of new or improved public spaces and other projects that enhance specific cultural and historical qualities that define and distinguish the small-town charm that defines these municipalities.

The Strategic Investment Plans and projects are driven by a Local Planning Committee, which conducts extensive community outreach and engagement. The Department of State also provides expansive technical assistance and capacity-building webinars — featuring staff, experts and peers from DRI communities —which are geared toward supporting communities that may have less resources and capacity than larger, more urban communities.