Medina intends to seek $10 million grant for downtown revitalization

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 May 2019 at 5:32 pm

File photos by Tom Rivers: Making the Medina Waterfalls more accessible to the public was part of Medina’s application in 2017 for a $10 million state application. Medina is going to try again for the funding.

MEDINA – The Village of Medina plans to seek a $10 million state grant for downtown revitalization.

Medina sought the funding in 2017, but wasn’t approved. It didn’t apply last year, instead worked to put more pieces in place for the application, including a local waterfront development plan.

The recently passed state budget included a fourth round of the $10 million grants to 10 different regions of the state. Orleans County is considered in the Finger Lakes region by the state.

In the first three years of the program, the $10 million grants were approved in the Finger Lakes for downtowns the City of Geneva, City of Batavia and Village of Penn Yan. The state has approved 30 of the grants to the 10 regions altogether.

“As we have already seen with 30 communities across the State, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative is so much more than a $10 million prize,” Governor Cuomo said in a news release on April 19. “This critical program completely transforms downtown communities, resulting in unprecedented growth and development that leads to a renewed sense of pride in our cities, towns and villages. I look forward to seeing another 10 communities compete and prosper over the next year thanks to this critical funding.”

The program is looks to transform downtown districts in vulnerable areas of the state into livable, walkable and dynamic neighborhoods.

The grant applications are due by 4 p.m. on May 31. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council will review the applications and then submit its pick to the state win July for further review.

The regional council and state both will look for a downtown that has a plan to build on momentum of other public and private investment in the community.

Some of the criteria listed by the state for the winning downtown:

• 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, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;

• The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs and transit-oriented development;

• 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 DRI strategic investment plan; and

• The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.

The site on Main Street that used to be the Starlite Cleaners could be redeveloped into parking and green space, Medina said in its state application for $10 million.

In Medina’s previous application, it sought to take better advantage of the wide Canal Basin, which Medina officials said then had “underutilized and untapped potential.”

The Medina application stated the downtown is ideally situated between Rochester and Buffalo. The village is on the Niagara Wine Trail and includes destination restaurants such as Mariachi De Oro and Zambistro’s.

Medina already has several popular events and attractions such as the Polar Express (19,000 in December), Parade of Lights (10,000 in late November), Thomas the Tank Engine (12,000 in May), Steampunk Festival, Wine about Winter, Ale in Autumn and Farm-to-Table dinner.

The application noted planned investments in the community, including a $6 million renovation of the Bent’s Opera House to develop the site into a boutique hotel, high-end restaurant and event space. The former Medina High School also is planned to be redeveloped into a mixed-use facility with apartments.

Medina also has a Business Park that has been a finalist for significant projects, including one manufacturer that would have created 800 jobs. Besides that coveted land in the business park, Medina is also 8 miles from the STAMP high-tech park in the Town of Alabama.

With the recent business expansions and prospects for more mean industry, Medina will feel a demand for residential opportunities, the application from Medina stated.

Much of the Medina housing stock and downtown architecture is in need of significant investment following decades of economic depression in the community, the application states.

Some highlights of Medina’s previous application for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative include:

Canal Basin Revitalization: Medina proposed burying power lines (costs and lead times have already been obtained from National Grid), reconfiguring parking and roadway, improving pedestrian/bicycle traffic flow and replacing concrete wall with grass and tree lined slope. Medina also wants to remediate any soil conditions as needed.

The village application also sought Canal Basin infrastructure improvements with upgraded boating amenities – slips, docks, tie-ups and restroom improvements, better lighting for security and ambiance, a boat launch and a kayak launch, as well as more tree plantings and walkway improvements.

Medina Waterfall Area Upgrades: The Medina waterfall exists as a result of a unique engineering infrastructure feat related to the Canal and Canal Basin, the Medina application states. Medina wants to bolster this unique opportunity around the canal and the Medina area and create a regional tourist attraction that would also draw more customers to downtown businesses and improve the local quality of life.

The application sought to allow pedestrian access to the waterfall, and also repair sidewalks and improve lighting.

• Seasonal Business Development Program: The village in its application sought a design and development program for seasonal businesses entrepreneurial opportunities. Medina said it would engage architecture and design students from local universities to help design and construct any temporary or permanent Canal Basin shop buildings.

• Streetscape Upgrades: The goal of the improved streetscapes would be to connect the surrounding residential areas to downtown and the Canal Basin. This effort would also work in with conjunction with the Brownfield Acquisition & Development portion of the proposed plan as well as the overall planing board initiative to improve pedestrian walkways and bike paths throughout the village.

Buildings & Facades – Mixed Use: This program promotes enhanced usage of Medina’s unique downtown building stock – an asset base with many buildings comprised of priceless Medina Sandstone housed in a compact four corner downtown district which supports entrepreneurial pursuits, social engagement, civic leadership, walkability, cultural events and preservation, according to the application.

The recent capital investments by businesses in the community is creating a larger and larger housing and temporary lodging deficiency within the Medina area. This portion of funding would be directed toward attracting the national level talent these companies are seeking by leveraging Medina’s existing untapped architectural resources and infrastructure to increase unique hotel, temporary and permanent housing options across a diverse project set.

Mixed use developments with residential projects would better utilize buildings and boost the local tax base, Medina officials said.

Medina also said some of the $10 million award could be used to expand the scope, utilization and economic development within the local farmers market (Canal Village Farmers Market) – perhaps with a year-round facility. The market could use bathrooms, lighting, paints, etc. The market fills a need in the downtown with the nearest grocery store 2 miles away.

Medina could design and develop a best practice strategy for increasing local food consumption, local farmer economic support via community purchasing power and overall cultural awareness of the benefits related to supporting local food movements (reduced carbon footprints, access to whole healthy fruits and vegetables for blighted neighborhoods).

• Brownfield Acquisition & Development: There are two key brownfield sites coupled with two existing properties within the downtown Medina area that could be leveraged in accordance with the previously laid out infrastructure projects. Both 151 Pearl Street and 331 Main Street could be transformed into a mixed-use municipal parking and green space lot serving parking needs while increasing overall green space.

Mayor Mike Sidari said the village and the committee working on the plan welcomes input on the plan and application. There will be an opportunity for the public to comment on proposals on May 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Village Clerk’s Office, 19 Park Ave.

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