CAZENOVIA — During the Sept. 7 Village of Cazenovia Board of Trustees meeting, Lauren Lines, executive director of the Cazenovia Area Community Development Association (CACDA), provided an overview of the village’s latest Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) proposal.
A cornerstone of New York’s comprehensive economic development strategy, the DRI is intended to transform downtown neighborhoods into vibrant centers that offer a high quality of life and are magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, and economic and housing diversity.
According to the July 2021 Downtown Revitalization Initiative Guidebook, “In light of the impact COVID-19 has had on communities, it is more important than ever to support the revitalization of downtowns and its businesses, infrastructure, and other critical community assets.”
Now in its fifth year, the DRI will invest $200 million into up to 20 downtowns statewide. The state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) will nominate participating communities based on the downtown’s potential for transformation. Within each region, the REDC will nominate either two downtowns to receive $10 million each or one downtown to receive $20 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization.
Applications for the current round must be submitted by Sept. 15.
CACDA has applied for the DRI on behalf of the village several times, but to no avail. The program was put on hiatus last year due to the pandemic.
According to Mayor Kurt Wheeler, this year’s application highlights the village’s “opportunity zones,” such as the two empty Widewaters Group, Inc. buildings on Albany Street; the affordable senior and family housing development on Burton Street; the need for medical care; general downtown infrastructure and streetscape improvements; and Cazenovia College.
Wheeler informed the board that the college has entered into a contract with Innovation Collective.
“It’s almost like when a business hires a consultant,” Wheeler said. “ . . . In this case, the point agency is the college, but it will be a benefit to the whole community . . . The Innovation Collective basically helps you identify a strength that then becomes the focus of a community-wide effort aimed at entrepreneurship and creating new businesses and drawing people to your community based on your strength. The strength that has been identified — I don’t know if it’s official yet, but it looks like where we are headed — is education.”
Wheeler noted that education has undergone a notable transformation in recent years and that Cazenovia College hopes to become a leader in the evolving education field.
“The way people are getting college credits and getting a college education is changing,” he said. “It’s not just going to a four-year residential institution and that’s it. There are online components, there are stackable credits, and adult education, and on-going education. There are many, many things that are changing in that world.”
The mayor also highlighted some of the community’s other educational strengths such as Cazenovia’s award-winning K-12 education system, art education and equine education, among others, noting that they would all be included in the DRI application.
According to Lines, a focus on education is important to the community’s downtown economic development.
“If people are coming to the college for a weeklong immersive program and they are residing in the dorms there, they are going to visit the shops and they are going to dine out, and it just brings a lot more visitation to the community,” Lines said. “So I think it fits very well with the DRI application.”
Wheeler also commented that a community-wide focus on education could also encourage individuals to start “tangentially related” businesses.
“Let’s say everybody is coming for class on a certain topic, there might be a small business that forms to provide materials that you need in order to do that class,” he said. “It could be an art supplies store or whatever. People are energized to create new entrepreneurial efforts that are parallel [to education].”
According to Lines, this year’s DRI application will not be drastically different from the 2019 application. It will, however, highlight the idea that, post-COVID, people are looking for lifestyles similar to those offered in Cazenovia. It will also explore potential ways to make the village more attractive to people who work remotely and have the option of living anywhere.
The board encouraged Lines to also consider including Cazenovia’s many opportunities for outdoor recreation and emphasizing the village’s role as a hub for the surrounding rural areas.
Lines told the board that although CACDA does not expect to receive the DRI funding, participation in the application process is important.
“We were told that by participating, our other [NYS Consolidated Funding Applications], like the one for Lakeland Park, receive higher priority,” she explained. “So I think it is always good to participate.”
In other news
The board granted approval to Peter Hogan to begin planning a St. Patrick’s Day parade and cultural festival for March 2022.
Hogan, who has summered in Cazenovia with his wife, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, and their children for years, planned a similar festival in Rumson, New Jersey.
“I love the approach that they took there, and he’d like to take a similar approach here,” said Wheeler. “Like Rumson, New Jersey, there is a substantial Irish American community in Caz. [He has proposed] going into the whole history, the culture, how people came to America, the cuisine, and the literature. It’s pretty in-depth, so there would be a parade but also a whole series of festivities that go along with that.”
Hogan is forming a St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee to plan the event.
The board of trustees typically meets on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Village Municipal Building, 90 Albany St.
For more information, visit villageofcazenovia.com.