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Medina sought $10 million state grant for downtown revitalization

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 October 2017 at 10:01 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Increasing pedestrian access to the Medina Waterfalls is one of the projects sought by Medina leaders in a $10 million state application that was denied. Medina is going to try again for the funding if the state has another round in the downtown revitalization initiative.

MEDINA – Medina village officials and community members worked together earlier this year on a $10 million application to the state for a Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Medina didn’t get the grant, but Mayor Mike Sidari said Medina will try again.

“We’re already starting to review it and make changes,” he said about the application.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Batavia on Friday afternoon to announce Batavia as the winner of the $10 million in the Finger Lakes region, which includes Orleans County.

This is the second year Cuomo and the state have made the $10 million available to 10 “distressed downtowns” around the state. Last year, The City of Geneva won the award in the Finger Lakes.

“Eligible projects will include those that grow small businesses and employment, expand housing, improve transportation, and partner with large institutions such as universities and hospitals,” Cuomo said in announcing the downtown grants in January 2016.

File photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from April 2014 shows the Bent’s Opera House, which was built in 1864. The building is undergoing a major renovation to become an upscale restaurant, boutique hotel and event space.

At Batavia on Friday, the governor said the state wants to jumpstart projects to create “cool places” that appeal to millennials to live and work. The younger generation entering the workforce wants to be able to walk to cafes and restaurants. The state wants to reward communities that have plans to reimagine their downtowns, Cuomo said.

Medina’s grant application highlighted recent successes, including a $10 million investment by Baxter Healthcare, which has added 400 jobs since 2012. Canadian firms such as Brunner, Pride Pak and Hinspergers Poly Industries also are heavily invested in Medina.

The application sought to take better advantage of the wide Canal Basin, which Medina officials said has “underutilized and untapped potential.”

The Medina application says 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 notes 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 application for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative include:

This rendering shows a reimagined Canal Basin with expanded amenities for boaters and kayaks.

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 untaped 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.

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Ken and Rose Baker from Baker Farms in Medina, right, are pictured last November with Kari Kasmier, a  beekeeper who sells honey at the Canal Village Farmers’ Market. The Orleans Renaissance Group would like to see the site developed into year-round facility with bathrooms and more amenities.

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.

Photo by Tom Rivers: 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.

Although Medina missed the $10 million grant this round, it looks like the state will continue to offer the program next year. The governor said the state was expecting 20-22 applications for the downtown grants around the state received 104.

Vincent Esposito, regional director of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, encouraged Medina to try again for the funding.

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