Fulton County Center for Regional Growth seeks feedback on proposed DRI projects

Audrey J. Powers

The City of Gloversville and the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth posted 17 proposed economic development projects to the internet Wednesday. These proposals may be included in the city’s application to win the Mohawk Valley Region’s 5th round of New York State’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative [DRI] contest.

The purpose of the first four rounds of New York state’s $10 million DRI contest has been to award state funding that can act as a catalyst for tens of millions of dollars in additional private investment to the best application of economic development projects to improve a downtown core area of one city in each of New York state’s ten regional economic development areas, with Gloversville being located in the Mohawk Valley Region.

During the first four rounds of the contest Gloversville lost out to Oneonta, Rome, the city of Amsterdam and the 2019 winner Utica. The remaining three cities in the Mohawk Valley Region that have previously applied for the DRI grant and not won it are: Gloversville, Cooperstown and Sharon Springs.

But this year the rules have changed, and Gloversville has a better shot to win money than in the past.

“Formatting this year is somewhat of a doubledown situation where two communities in each of those regional economic councils will be awarded $10 million or one community will get $20 million,” Gloversville Downtown Development Specialist James Hannahs said during a live video presentation about the DRI on Tuesday.”

Hannahs said Gloversville is primed to win this year and has a stronger application than in any of the previous rounds.

“We started this application last year. We had a roster of projects that we had put forward,” Hannahs said. “We had to put our pencils down when the contest was canceled last year, but this year some of those projects have advanced and are even stronger now than before, and there have been significant developments over the last 12 months that have shifted our energy in the right direction.”

The CRG has posted the information about the 17 projects for 2021’s application to a surveymonkey.com link on the website cityofgloversvilledri.com. The link takes internet browsers to a survey page where they can provide feedback expressing from “one to ten” how much they like (10 being liking very much) or don’t like (a ranking of 1 means not liking the project at all) each of the 17 proposed projects. People who take the survey can also type specific comments about each of the projects.

The survey also includes a complete map of Gloversville’s proposed “DRI Boundary”, created by consulting group Elan Planning & Design, of Saratoga Springs. The boundary map shows the entire area that would be within the DRI Zone if Gloversville wins the $10 million contest.

The Common Council hired Elan in 2020 to help craft its application for the contest, hoping the consulting firm could help Gloversville join the ranks of other cities in the region like Amsterdam and Schenectady that have won the competitive state grant during its first four rounds from 2015 to 2019.
But the contest was cancelled in 2020 due to the New York state budget fiscal crisis made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. The city had about $3,000 left in the budget it had allocated to hire Elan, and the consultants used the money to take parts of the 2020 application and update and improve them, including the creation of the boundary map and the creation of additional economic development projects as well as the elimination of some of them.

“We had to adjust since last year, so a few things fell off, and we added a few new ones that I think make this year’s application even stronger than last years,” Hannahs said.

One of the eliminated projects from what would have been the 2020 application was a renovation of the facade of 26 South Main St., a building that has since been torn down. Some of the entirely new projects include a proposed renovation of the Eccentric Club and the creation of “Littauer Piazza”, which would be built at the former location of 26 South Main St.

Unlike the preliminary list of 13 projects posted to cityofgloversvilledri.com in 2020, the 2021 list does not yet include specific dollar amounts that each project would seek from the $10 million DRI grant.

More information about the 17 economic development projects unveiled Wednesday can be found underneath the DRI graphic below.

Hannahs said public feedback is an important part of the DRI application process, and the city and the CRG are hoping people take the online survey or come to his office at the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth at 34 W Fulton St. and ask for a printed version of the survey.

“We want you to go through each project with a fine tooth and comb and put your judgement forth,” Hannahs said. “We want the public to tell us how they’re feeling about the projects and give us an idea about the level of support for our mission statement and where we want to see our downtown over the next decade or so.”

The survey is expected to remain up online at least through Sept. 2.

Project 1: Eccentric Club
The project proposal describes the Eccentric Club as one of the longest consecutive running operations in Gloversville, located on the corner of Spring St. and North Main Street. The club was originally founded in part by the city’s patriarchal philanthropist, Lucius Littauer.

“The club’s third floor has been underutilized for decades given its hurdles with egress,” reads the project proposal. “The Club will utilize DRI funding to renovate the third floor as a public space to be state-of-the-art event and conference space, creating an organized destination in the heart of downtown.

Project 2: Glove City Lofts
Considered a “cornerstone project” the proposed $20 million Glove City Lofts 75-unit artist housing project to be built at 52 Church St. has advanced considerably since it was first revealed as a possibility as one of the 14 projects in Gloversville’s 2020 DRI application. At that time the project was seeking $2 million in DRI funding, but had no fixed location.

Since then the Kearney Realty Group in May announced it had entered into a 12-month purchase option agreement with the CRG to buy the site of the long empty Frontier Call Center at 52 Church St. for $200,000.

In May, Kearney said his company will seek about $1.1 million in federal income-based housing tax credits awarded by New York State office of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) in order to tear down the old Frontier building and build the new apartment complex. Those tax credits come with strings attached related to how much in rent the apartment building will be able to charge, based on community income levels.

According to the DRI project proposal the project will support tenants within 60% to 100% of Gloversville’s Area Median Income [AMI], which in 2019 was $38,896.

Kearney said some units that have a preference for artists, who are vetted by a committee and can have lower than the AMI, a model that’s allowed under the federal tax credit program, and one his company has used to great success elsewhere in the state. Kearney said his company has been associated with several past DRI winners, and believes it can help Gloversville win the contest for 2021.

“When the city of Peekskill was awarded the DRI, local elected officials credited our project for bringing attention to the city,” Kearney said in May.
The Glove City Lofts DRI proposal states the apartment complex will include “75 loft-styled apartments, common areas, performance spaces, and artist studios will be constructed within the complex’s spanning grounds. Beyond providing high quality apartments, the Glove City Lofts project aims to strengthen the accessibility of local art exhibits and platforms for expression.”

Project 3: St. Thomas Square
This public project related to a $250,000 private donation the city received in June from the William H. St. Thomas Family Foundation to help “establish and beautify St. Thomas Square” a proposed North Main Street and Elm Street green space area to be built adjacent to the north of the current Farmer’s Market Pavilion near Wandel Park.

The DRI project would look to expand what will be available at the location.

“St. Thomas Square will be situated just east of the farmers market pavilion structure and will run due north along Elm St.,” reads the DRI project proposal. “he Square will feature decorative pavers with seating, public art displays, lawn areas, promenade space along Elm St., and a dedication wall to the St. Thomas workers. Along with this specific space, improvements to Castiglione Park will be made in order to seamlessly transition to the Square, where an enhanced horticulture program will be established as well as vertical gardens, commissioned murals, and improved seating.”

Project 4: Burton Block Renovations
This project proposes that an unnamed local “developer with a proven record of accomplishment” will renovate 64 North Main. St., a building that had once been used as a YMCA, into a mixed-use building with commercial activity on the first floor. The building’s upper floors will be converted to 5 middle income apartments “complete with a common area and fitness center.”

“An alleyway, historically a hotspot for blight, is situated at the rear of the building,” reads the project proposal. “With the help of the Glove Cities Arts Alliance, the developer plans to initiate a street art exhibit that will provide function and use to the space with the intent to convert the previously blighted space to an urban pocket destination.”

Project 5: Former City Hall
According to the project proposal Gloversville’s old City Hall building is currently under contract with a local developer who plans to move an existing restaurant to the space.

“The restaurant, having a long and accredited history in Gloversville for decades, will be able to expand into a larger footprint as well as utilize the only space in downtown capable of accommodating sidewalk dining,” reads the proposal. “This will breathe life onto the street; further advancing downtown’s sense of public space. In addition to the hospitality concept on the ground floor, the existing market rate apartments will be updated, ensuring the viability of robust upper story development.”

Project 6: Carriage House Showroom Renovation
This project proposes to renovate the old Carriage House showroom to accommodate a modern sports bar with a full kitchen, tap system, and event space.

“The new space would serve lunch and dinner, allowing engagement and activity during after-work hours and supplying an underserved market in downtown,” reads the proposal. “The project will also feature upper story development of market rate apartments, furthering another recommended action from the 2018 Downtown Revitalization Strategy.”

Project 7: Glove Theatre Restoration
This project has evolved during the course of Gloversville’s previous four attempts to win the $10 million DRI. In 2019 it was described as a $5 million restoration project.

In the 2020 application for the contest that was canceled the Glove Theatre project was seeking a $100,000 DRI match to go along with $100,000 in private investment to enhance the theatre’s accommodations and offerings for “traveling acts”, which appears to be the focus of the 2021 application project, although no dollar figures were included.

“The first step is to complete basic yet very necessary improvements, then following those items with some artistic renovations and enhanced seating,” reads the proposal. “This project includes: sprinkler system improvements, HVAC System upgrades, walls restoration, plaster replacement, original 1914 mural restoration, installation of l new, efficient acoustics, electric lighting upgrades and “Fly Loft” upgrades.”

Project 8: Complete Streets Project
This project proposes a paved corridor with protected bike lanes, new crosswalks, wayfinding signs, dismount parklets, and improved street lighting. “Other improvements to around Trail Station Park and splash pad, would help establish a frequently-visited starting point welcoming easy travel into the core of the downtown district,” reads the proposal.

Project 9: Youth Recreation Center/Skate Park
For this project the city government has proposed partnering with the Gloversville Enlarged School District, the United Methodist Church, Fulton County Department of Social Services, and the Rob Constantine Center to build a holistic community center within the old YWCA building on Bleeker Street.

“Programs and building improvements will include façade renovations, signage, interior updates and improvements, youth program for before and after school services and outdoor recreation such as skate park, playground,” reads the proposal. “The center will address a long standing need to serve the youth in the community and provide an area where they can interact with the daily city life that is happening in downtown.”

The site of the former YWCA has been a source of controversy in recent years as the Free Methodist Church of Gloversville, which owns the building, has attempted to site a Code Blue Homeless Shelter at the location. The city has changed its zoning to prohibit that type of shelter inside the city’s “Form-based Downtown Overlay District”, which would be inside the DRI Boundary zone.

Project 10: Matty the Jeweler, 13 North Main
For this project proposal, the restoration plans for the old “Matty” building prioritize the need for a collaborative community space for artists, crafters, and local businesses.

“The three-story structure has been stripped to the bare studs and bricks, exposing era-appropriate features including tin ceilings, brick murals, and red spruce timber beams,” reads the project proposal. “In doing so, the team at Micropolis Development will continue to restore the structure with preservation and renewable energy as major priorities. DRI contributions will be allocated towards high-ticket historic and sustainable renovations, such as energy efficient greenhouse panels.”

Project 11: City National building
This project would develop the old City National Commons to house a series of professional executive office suites, with state-of-the-art meeting spaces and fiber optic capabilities.

“The anchor space, 12-22 N Main St., will host a committed full-time tenant, adding additional business and financial resources to the city’s tax base,” reads the project proposal. “Hazardous abatement work has been completed, renovation scope has been approved by the State Historic Preservation Office, and construction is set to commence on Sep. 1, 2021.”

Project 12: Littauer Piazza
The former site of the Littauer Building at 26 South Main Street, which was recently torn down, under this project proposal would be turned into a “public gathering spot for outdoor concerts, downtown movie nights, and engagement with proximity businesses.”

“This site will be the manifestation of publicly-oriented adaptive reuse in an area in need of investment,” reads the project proposal. “Planned improvements include: paving the lot with decorative pavers, exterior finishes on surrounding buildings, construction of stage with lighting and sound capabilities in-line with existing architecture, construction of masonry fence at sidewalk, purchase of moveable park furniture, and public art to go at the location.”

Project 13: Mixed Use Development 20-24 S. Main Street
This project would construct a mixed-use development with commercial and restaurant space on the first floor and workforce housing in the upper stories. “Given its proximity to Littauer Piazza, the northern wall is poised for high levels of cross engagement into the piazza,” reads the project proposal. “With the advent of an open lot, soon to be the piazza, the developer will be able to construct balconies, windows, and garage doors to further synergistic levels across the lots.The upper floors will feature 1 and 2 bedroom residential units, along with direct parking access in the rear of the building.”

Project 14: Knox Building at 52 South Main Street
According to the project proposal this building has had a variety of uses in its past including professional offices, manufacturing space, and most recently, a laundromat.

“The owner and developer of the building wishes to continue renovation to accommodate a mixed use facility, specifically geared towards veteran housing on the upper floors,” reads the project proposal. “As the project continues to develop, the DRI can help augment associated costs.”

Project 15: Glove City Brewing Headquarters, 64 South Main
“This adaptive reuse project of the former H&P Motors garage will be the future home of a grassroots microbrewery, Glove City Brew Works,” reads the proposal. “This startup will retrofit brewing operations, canning, distribution, and a small kitchen in the indoor space of the garage, while resurfacing the outdoor area into a casual meeting ground for patrons. This site will transform a dark and vacant lot into a lively, engaging atmosphere that will serve as Downtown’s southern gateway destination.”

Project 16: Public Art Fund
This project would create a grant fund to act as a source of seed money to kickstart and establish a network of public art projects.

“This will establish validity for an ongoing stream of income built into [the city’s] planning process and 1% add-on to downtown projects,” reads the project proposal. “Potential types of art include commissioning of murals and large public art sculptures with urban design elements for the comfort of downtown visitors.”

Project 17: Downtown Business Fund
This project is usually one of the projects funded by a $10 million DRI grant. It creates a locally managed funding pool that would supply needed capital for business improvement projects within the DRI Boundary.

“Funding would be available for façade renovation and to incentivize upper story housing in buildings that have no means of access to the upper floors,” reads the proposal. “The revolving loan program would adhere to conditions, similar to the Microenterprise Grant Program and Gloversville Loan Fund, and would receive applications before being reviewed. This project aims to make capital more accessible to existing and new businesses in Downtown as well as incentivizing them to invest in their future in Gloversville.”

According to the proposal, the city of Gloversville would provide an additional $400,000 on top of the typical DRI downtown fund amount of $600,000.

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