Medina committee faces tough task in cutting projects in $4.5 million NY Forward grant

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 September 2023 at 8:50 am

Total currently more than $4 million above limit that will be funded by state

Photos by Tom Rivers: The north end of Main Street in Medina is pictured earlier this month.

MEDINA – A committee in Medina faces a difficult challenge of trying to narrow $8.7 million from 22 potential projects for Medina’s NY Forward grant of $4.5 million.

The state will ultimately decide which projects are awarded funding. The Medina committee could just send the $8.7 million in projects to the state, and let state officials decide. But the local group, which met on Tuesday evening, wants to try to get the number down to $6 to $6.5 million. The state would then make the final cuts. (There is also a chance some projects may pull out of the process after the list is submitted to the state. That is why Medina is willing to send a list over $4.5 million.)

“We’re not doing our job if we don’t whittle it down,” said Medina Mayor Mike Sidari, a member of the local planning committee.

The group is working to finalize a list and prepare detailed project descriptions to send to the state. The draft of the plan should be complete by mid-November with the final document sent to the state by mid-December. The state is then expected to announce which projects are approved for funding and at what amount possibly by February or perhaps in the spring.

The committee and the state will give greater priority to projects that are transformative to the downtown, that can catalyze other investments and benefit other businesses. They will also determine if the property owner is “ready” and can make the project a reality, said Kimberly Baptiste of the Bergmann engineering, architecture and planning firm. She is assisting the Medina committee in putting together the plan to submit to the state.

The committee said all of the projects submitted are very worthwhile and meet the goal of the NY Forward program of making the downtown more live-able and attractive.

The committee put out a survey to the community and the responses tended to put public projects as higher priority than privately owned initiatives.

A $500,000 request from Lee-Whedon Library to help with an addition was the top choice in the community survey.

A request from the owners of Avanti Pizza for $600,000 to help develop the second and third floors of their building received the least support among the community.

But that doesn’t mean the Avanti project should be dismissed from consideration. That building is on the main corner in downtown Medina. Avanti’s has been a key part of the downtown for nearly 20 years.

Avanti’s is among several projects that would add residential and office space on the upper floors in the downtown, spaces that are currently underutilized.

The committee agreed on Tuesday it should be the one to help narrow the projects, rather than sending all 22 at projects at $8.7 million in requested  funding for the state. The committee debated whether some projects should be considered higher priority if they are on Main Street, rather than a block or two away. And should projects be ranked higher if they are facing the Erie Canal waterfront?

The group will try to determine a rationale for eliminating some projects to get the total down in the $6 million to $6.5 million range.

“I’d like to see us trim it down, rather than the state trim it down,” said committee member Tim Elliott, who is also a member of the Medina Village Board.

These are the 22 projects with their requested funding from NY Forward in parentheses.

Canal Basin Parking Lot (Multiple Options)

  • ALTERNATIVE A ($2 million) – This alternative is the most transformative, with significantly expanded green space, pedestrian pathways, and gathering areas. This alternative includes 53 parking spaces.
  • ALTERNATIVE B ($1.5 million) – This alternative expands the green space area along the canal and enhances pedestrian connections to the waterfront. This alternative includes 71 parking spaces.
  • ALTERNATIVE C ($1 million) – This creates a multi-functional pedestrian promenade space at the rear of the Main Street buildings that can be used for seating, outdoor dining, and temporary events. This space can also accommodate loading and deliveries. This alternative includes 45 parking spaces.
  • ALTERNATIVE D ($500,000) – This alternative creates a small pedestrian plaza area at the north end of the East Center Street alleyway which can accommodate gathering and outdoor dining. The rest of the basin is kept as is. This alternative includes 83 parking spaces.
  • Canal Village Farmers Market at 127 West Center St. ($300,000) – This project will renovate the existing building at 127 West Center Street to create a year-round space for the Canal Village Farmers Market. Expanded vendor space, public restrooms, a visitor center, and green space will also be included on the site.
  • Canal View Bar/Tasting Area at 135 East Center St. ($100,000) – This project will create a bar/serving area with an exterior patio overlooking the Canal Basin in the rear of the Modern Mercantile building.
  • 409-413 Main St. ($200,000) – This project will renovate the second floor of the building at 409-413 Main Street into 3 new one-bedroom apartments and 1 new two-bedroom apartment.
  • Knights of Columbus Building Accessible Community Space ($150,000) – This project will make facade improvements to the Knights of Columbus building and install a lift at the rear entrance to make the 200-person community event space on the second floor ADA accessible for public use.
  • 424 Main Street ($250,000) – This project will create 4 new apartments on the upper floors of the building at 424 Main Street. The commercial units on the ground floor will also be renovated.
  • 433 Main Street ($300,000) – This project will create a new two-bedroom apartment on the upper floors of the building at 433 Main Street.
  • Community Arts Workshop and Gift Store at 509 Main St. ($150,000) – This project will renovate the second floor of the building at 509 Main St. to create a community arts and crafts workshop and gift store.
  • Bunkhaus Apartments at 511 West Ave. ($100,000) – This project will renovate the Bunkhaus Hostel to create 4 one-bedroom apartments targeted for short- and long-term rental housing for professionals, snowboards, and/or tourists.
  • Author’s Note Bookstore at 519 Main St. ($200,000) – This project will create a two-bedroom apartment unit on the second floor for short- or medium-term rental, targeted at artists. The basement of the building will also be renovated to create an event space to be used for book clubs, workshops, etc., or by other community groups.
  • 521 Main Street ($150,000) – This project will renovate the second floor of the building at 521 Main Street into a new one-bedroom apartment and two Airbnb units.
  • Walsh Hotel Redevelopment at 525 West Ave. ($550,000) – This project will complete renovations to the upper floors of the Walsh Hotel as part of a larger project to create 22 studio and one-bedroom apartments.
  • Arenite Brewing Company at 339 Main St. ($400,000) – This project will create a microbrewery and tasting room with outdoor seating overlooking the canal at 339 Main Street.
  • Avanti Pizza Upper Floors Renovation at 500 Main St. ($600,000) – This project will renovate the upper floors of the Avanti Pizza building into a mix of residential and office space.
  • Hart House Hotel Renovations at 113 West Center St. ($500,000) – This project is the last phase of a larger project to upgrade the Hart House Hotel with a formal lobby, café, spa, outdoor event space and gastropub.
  • Lee-Whedon Memorial Library at 620 West Ave. ($500,000) – This project will create an addition on the library with new tutoring rooms, meeting rooms, and quiet rooms for community use. The existing library building will also be renovated to create an expanded children’s area and new entry.
  • Medina Theatre Renovations at 601-611 Main St. ($150,000) – This project is the first phase of a larger project to upgrade the Medina Theatre. This project will renovate the existing marquee and facade, make cosmetic improvements to the theatre, and prep the building for a future restaurant and conference space.
  • Downtown Wayfinding Signage ($250,000) – This project will install a system of directional, informational, and interpretive signage at key locations and destinations to guide visitors throughout downtown.
  • Public Lot Connectivity Improvements Description ($1 million) – This project will improve the public parking lot at the southeast corner of Main and Center Streets with better circulation, shade trees, and improved connectivity to the Canal Basin and Main Street businesses.
  • East Center Street Alleyway Improvements ($400,000) –This project will enhance the alleyway that connects the Canal Basin across East Center Street to the public parking lot. The alley will have landscaping, lighting, seating and signage.
  • Canal Basin Park Gateway Signage ($150,000) – This project will install two large, gateway signs at the Mill Street entrance to the Canal Basin (off Main Street) and at the East Center Street alleyway entrance to the basin.
  • Small Project Grant Fund ($300,000) – The Small Project Grant Fund would provide support to downtown business and property owners to implement smaller-scale projects like façade improvements, window replacement and other repairs.

The committee met Tuesday at the Medina district office boardroom and reviewed the survey findings from the community. About 200 people took the survey in-person or online, giving their opinion on how to prioritize the funding. Kimberly Baptiste of the Bergmann engineering, architecture and planning firm led the committee in reviewing the results.

With the survey from community members (taken by 180 online and 35 in person), high priority was given, in descending order, to the library, farmer’s market, Knights of Columbus, small grants for multiple businesses, East Center Street alley, public parking lot, Canal basin signage, arts workshop at 509 Main and Medina Theatre.

Projects given medium priority from the survey respondents (in descending order) include way finding, Author’s Note, Arenite Brewing, Canal View Bar, Hart House Hotel, Canal Basin lot ($1.5 million option), Canal Basin lot ($2 million option), 521 Main and 409 Main.

The projects ranked as low priority in the community survey (in descending order) include the Walsh Hotel, 424 Main, Basin lot ($500,000 option), Bunkhaus, Basin lot ($1 million option), 433 Main and Avanti Pizza.

The two parking lots – at Canal Basin and behind Main Street on East Center, would total $3 million of the $4.5 million grant if pursued at the full proposal, Baptiste, the planning consultant, said scaling those plans back to just repaving the lots likely wouldn’t get funding from the state. The NY Forward program wants to add beautification and other elements to make the parking lots better.

During last Tuesday’s meeting, Joe Cardone attended and make a pitch for the Medina Theatre, one of the first buildings seen on Main Street when people enter from the south. He wants to add a modern digital marquee with LED lighting. He said it would be a vast improvement at a gateway into the business district. However, the current village code doesn’t allow digital signage in the historic district. Mayor Sidari said the village is looking to modify the code for signage.

Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, the top vote getter in the community survey, also isn’t currently in the target area for the NY Forward grant. It is adjacent to the area. The boundaries can be changed to include the library, Baptiste advised the committee.