“About 10 years of planning had already gone into the downtown, but there was never the funding in place for it,” said Paul DeDominicas, director of community development. “We thought that we could put a pretty solid argument together that we were ready, and just need that extra kick of help from the state.”
When Governor Andrew Cuomo launched the statewide $100-million Downtown Revitalization Initiative on April 7, 2016, DeDominicas and the City of Plattsburgh were ready.
Plattsburgh applied to be a part of the initiative and was selected to receive $10-million by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council on July 6, 2016.
With projects now getting into full-swing, public forums have come along with them.
A recent meeting on Nov. 8 focused on the Downtown Grant Program, an initiative that is looking to provide money for new apartment developments and renovations in downtown Plattsburgh. The City of Plattsburgh’s website describes the DGP as “a fully reimbursable grant program” that will “reimburse approved applicants up to 90 percent of their total project cost, not to exceed a maximum of $100,000.”
DeDominicas hopes that the housing aspect of the initiative will help keep PSUC students around.
“The goal is to create year-round, stable housing,” DeDominicas said. “We want to make sure students who are graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh and want to stay in the city have quality apartments that they can move in to and be proud to have people come and see it.”
DRI Project Implementation Assistant Joel Wood, a PSUC alumnus himself, agreed with DeDominicas, citing this as one of the main reasons that he wanted to join the project.
“After graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh I knew that I loved the area and wanted to continue working here, and I wanted to live as close to the city center as possible,” Wood said. “One day I want to be able to live in one of the upper stories of a mixed-use development right in the city.”
The grant program is just one of 10 projects currently underway as a part of the revitalization initiative, with big changes slated for all over the city. Wood mentioned streetscape enhancements and improving access to the Saranac River as two big focuses, as well as development on the land that is currently taken up by the Durkee Street public parking lot.
“The Durkee Street parking lot is one of the last developable areas of land that doesn’t have anything on it in the city,” Wood said. “We want to take that parking lot and transform it into some sort of mixed-use development, whether that be mixed-use retail or residential, in order to create a new sort of city center.”
With all of the work going into these projects, it may sound like a never-ending project to some, but DeDominicas insists that isn’t the case.
“Five years from now, we should be wrapping up everything,” DeDominicas said. “We’re looking to make targeted, effective, relatively fast projects so this doesn’t turn into another project that just languishes over time. Within the next two to five years, a lot of change is coming to Plattsburgh.”
Both DeDominicas and Wood talked about the many ways that the DRI will change the city visibly, but DeDominicas ended with how he hopes it will change the city’s identity.
“I’ve lived here since junior high, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that when you ask people what Plattsburgh is, they tend to define it as what we’re not,” DeDominicas said. “We’re not Burlington; we’re not Montreal; we’re not Lake Placid. I want to be a part of finally turning that corner toward defining Plattsburgh for what we are.”
Email Ben Watson at email@example.com