Medina begins process of identifying projects for $4.5 million in NY Forward grant

Photos by Tom Rivers: Kimberly Baptiste and Jeanette Petti, planners with Bergmann in Rochester, go over the NY Forward process for Medina to pick projects for $4.5 million in state funding. Those projects will be submitted to the state in November, with the projects to then be reviewed by the state with the final selections to be announced by the governor’s office next spring.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 May 2023 at 12:47 pm

MEDINA – The group that will identify projects to submit to the state for the $4.5 million awarded to Medina in NY Forward program wants to spread the money around, including many smaller projects as well as larger transformative efforts.

The 15-member local planning committee met for the first time on Wednesday evening and expects to have monthly sessions the next six months to pick the projects to submit to the state for its approval. The governor’s office is expected to announce which projects and the funding levels for each about a year from now.

Mayor Mike Sidari said he is grateful Medina was picked for the funding after being a finalist several times and missing out on a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The state modified the DRI to include smaller NY Forward grants for villages. The DRIs typically were going to cities with the villages not getting anything.

Medina is one of 24 NY Forward winners around the state and the grants range from $2.75 million to $4.5 million.

“It’s New York Forward but this will be Medina Forward,” Sidari said at the beginning of the two-hour meeting on Wednesday.

Sidari is co-chairman of the committee with Steve Mowers, the president of CRFS in Albion and a member of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.

The other committee members include Lauren Backlas, Gabrielle Barone, Kathy Blackburn, Gloria Brent, Chris Busch, Jesse Cudzillo, Tim Elliott, David Flynn, Rollin Hellner, Mark Kruzynski, Andrew Meier, Patrick Weissend and Mark Zambito.

Kimberly Baptiste of the Bergmann engineering, architecture and planning firm led the committee through the first meeting on Wednesday evening at the Medina Central School board room.

The committee members have all signed a code of conduct and must recuse themselves from any discussion or voting if they seek grant funding for their property or if they are part of an organization applying for NY Forward money.

The committee will work closely with planners from the Bergmann engineering, architectural and planning firm in Rochester. Other firms also will be assisting Medina in reviewing projects. Samantha Aldrich, a project manager and revitalization specialist with the state Department of State, also will be working closely with Medina through the process of submitting the final proposal to the state.

Kimberly Baptiste, a certified planner with Bergmann, went over the NY Forward program with the committee and the expected timeline in the coming months. The projects submitted in Medina’s application won’t necessarily receive funding and at the amounts identified in the application.

There also will be an opportunity for others to submit projects that weren’t identified in the application. Baptiste said projects need to be more than ideas. The business owners or organization need to be able to bring the project to a reality within two years of being awarded a grant, “ideally sooner,” Baptiste said.

The projects “need to enhance the downtown and the quality of life,” Baptiste said.

The state is pushing the NY Forward and DRI grants “to create an active downtown with a mix of uses,” she said.

Medina already boasts a vibrant downtown, but the committee will be looking to add even more vitality to the area, including housing options on some of the upper levels of the historic buildings.

Some of the $4.5 million will likely go to larger projects, perhaps $1 million or more of the grant. Committee members said they want smaller amounts available too to spread the funds around and help smaller business owners.

The $4.5 million will include up to $300,000 in a small grant fund where businesses can seek funds to help with painting, awnings, signs, window repair, roof work and other smaller projects.

Mayor Sidari said renovating the upper floors, including putting in elevators, will be much more costly and will take bigger chunks of the grant.

The committee will decide how much of a match will be needed for the projects, whether it’s a 50/50 split or more or less of a share from the property owner.

Mayor Mike Sidari gets a display ready that shows Medina’s winning application for the $4.5 million in funding. Projects identified in the application still need to be submitted and go through the review process. Those projects won’t necessarily be funded as part of a more stringent review or may be funded at a different amount that was listed in the application from last year. Steve Mowers (left) is the CRFS president in Albion and a member of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. He is co-chairman with Sidari of Medina’s local planning committee for the NY Forward grant.

Medina’s winning application sought the grant for the following:

  • Small Project Grant Fund at $500,000 on Main Street and West Avenue to support façade improvements to commercial and mixed-use properties in downtown Medina that benefit both the businesses occupying those buildings and the community as a whole. “Improvements to the street-facing exteriors of the buildings in need are meant to preserve the unique small-town charm in our community while spurring economic growth,” the application stated.
  • Renovation and activation of upper stories for $400,000 on Main Street and West Avenue. These funds would boost use of the upper floors in the downtown which are currently often vacant and underutilized. Funds would help with structural, electrical, plumbing and HVAC work as well as sprinklers and new windows.
  • Wayfinding signage throughout the downtown at $100,000 to direct people to the Erie Caal and other attractions and sites. Potential signage types for downtown may include gateway signs, directional signs (vehicular and pedestrian), kiosks and interpretive signs, identification signs (destinations and parking areas) and light pole banners.
  • Municipal parking lot upgrades at Canal Basin and the lot behind Main and East Center streets for $300,000. The latter larger lot needs paving, directional signs, green space and trees to provide shade, safe pedestrian connections and additional lighting.
  • State Street Park with $300,000 in improvements including a small ice rink, upgraded playground equipment, bicycle amenities, seating benches and additional lighting.
  • Mustang City, an adaptive reuse of the old high school on Catherine Street, at $3 million in grant request. This would create about 40 apartments, transforming a 90,000-square foot building and provide much-needed housing options.
  • Medina Railroad Museum Campus at 530 West Ave. is in the application for $1.5 million towards several upgrades, including a courtyard that would connect the train station to the existing museum building. Site improvements at the museum would include visitor experience enhancements, roof upgrades, parking lot paving, as well as landscape beautification. On the southern side of the tracks, the campus plan calls for the creation of a park-like courtyard space adjacent to the library. This courtyard will include the installation of two, permanent dining cars to be rented out for weddings and other events as well as an enclosed pole barn building to store and repair cars.

None of the projects identified in the application are final for Medina’s submission to the state for funding. The dollar amounts in the application also exceed the $4.5 million in the NY Forward grant.

Baptiste, the planner working with Medina, urged the committee to top the $4.5 million with the proposal to the state. Officials with the state will narrow the numbers on some of the proposals to get to $4.5 million.

Some of the plans may also have changed in the application that was submitted in October.

The owners of those projects, if they still want a chance at the NY Forward grant monies, will need to submit the projects for review by the committee. Other projects that weren’t in the initial application also can be proposed for consideration by the committee.

The target area for the NY Forward grant is in the downtown area from Ann Street to State Street and also includes much of the waterfront.

There will be an open call for projects next month. A web site will soon go live at and that will include the 12-page application to submit a project for consideration. A hard copy of the application also will be available at the village office.

The committee expects projects can be submitted beginning June 10 with a cutoff on July 10.

There will be a public information session at 7 p.m. on June 13 to walk prospective application through the process of applying for funds and to answer their questions.

Applicants will need to identify the project, state where it is located, who is sponsor if a municipality or organization, explain how will it be financed and offer a timeline for completion.

“We are looking for projects that aren’t just ideas but have financing behind them,” Baptiste said.

Projects for the grant funding should be in the target area but the committee could make an exception, especially if a site is contiguous to the area and has “catalytic” potential to spur other investment.

The committee will next meet from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on June 27 at the Medina Central School board room. The first public workshop with community input will follow that day from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The committee members participated in a visioning exercise on Wednesday evening. They were asked, in one word, to describe downtown Medina’s greatest asset.

Responses included the canal, waterfront, shops, architecture, people, businesses, downtown, historic buildings, history and support.

Lauren Backlas, a committee member, said she is impressed how the community turns out in big numbers for local festivals, events and when new businesses open. She sees that as a big strength of the downtown.

The group was asked the greatest challenge facing downtown Medina today. Money was listed several times. People also said parking, apathy, transportation, negativity, space, competition, modernization, gateways and space (not enough first floor spots available).

Chris Busch said more businesses would like to be in downtown Medina but there is a very high occupancy rate.

Gabrielle Barone, vice president of business development for the Orleans Economic Development Agency, said the gateways leading to the downtown need to be improved.

“No matter what gateway you’re coming through it is not inviting and does not speak to what Main Street is about,” she said. “I don’t think we’re paying enough attention to the gateways.”

The group also was asked how it would like to describe downtown in five years. Their responses included destination, complex, wonderful, vibrant, amazing, historic, balanced, perfect and thriving.

“I’d like to see Medina be the western gateway to the Finger Lakes region on the canal,” Mayor Sidari said.

Village Trustee Tim Elliott said the village needs to balance the historic charm with modern features and expectations. He noted the push from the village to install fast-charging stations for electric vehicles.

Baptiste said she looks forward to ongoing discussions about Medina and its future.

“Is everyone excited?” she asked at the end of the meeting. “It will be a lot of work over the next six months but it will also be a lot of fun.”