Arts, business support, street improvements in Potsdam’s $10 million downtown grant application
Saturday, May 25, 2019 - 5:30 pm

The area inside the yellow line contains the projects in the village’s DRI application.

By CRAIG FREILICH

North Country This Week

POTSDAM – The village is gearing up for its next submission for the annual $10 million grant to a North Country village or city from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Key in this year’s application will be securing financial support for the work of a new “Virtual Downtown Business Incubator” for local small business entrepreneurs.

This is “to make sure people who might be inclined to open a ‘Main Street’ type of business you’ll typically see in a small town – specialty business services, marketing, insurance and other support to business, and personal care” businesses including retail – have a chance to make a pitch for support, said Fred Hanss, director of the village’s Planning and Development Office.

This small business incubator could get funding through the state grant this year to assist startups and expansions with, for instance, rent payments for three years. “Not everybody can afford market rate rent” for a small business, Hanss said.

Financial support will also be sought for startup or expanding knowledge-based or new technology companies being developed in Clarkson University’s Small Business Incubator, intended to put the fruits of research into the marketplace.

Emphasis in this year’s application will be placed on ideas to develop the village’s standing as a center for arts, culture, education and outdoor recreation through expansion of the North Country Children’s Museum and rejuvenation of Clarkson University’s Old Snell Hall downtown, including its theater. The building is in line for a revival with market-rate and medium- and low-income apartments through a plan being developed by The Vecino Group, which seeks funding.

“Streetscape enhancement is still key for Market Street in this application round,” along with a new pedestrian and bicycle trail along the river, Hanss said.

The village’s streetscape plan, including decorative paving treatments including a possible road roundabout, plantings, and LED street lighting, has long been in the works for the village, and funding could come through the DRI.

Money will also be sought to continue the village’s program to repair façades on downtown buildings and financial assistance for more extensive renovation and repair for older commercial and mixed-use buildings.

The application to the Downtown Revitalization Initiative is for the fourth in an annual series of 10 $10 million grants, one to a municipality in each of the state’s Regional Economic Development Commission zones that has become part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Consolidated Funding Application program of competitive awards to each zone based on requests compiled from proposals in each zone each year.

In the North Country Region, Plattsburgh won the award three years ago, Watertown in 2017, and Saranac Lake took the prize in 2018.

“It’s going to be very competitive this year,” Hanss said, noting that applications are also expected from Canton, Massena, Ogdensburg, Lowville and maybe Malone.

The deadline for applications to the state Empire State Development office is May 31.

The application can benefit from statements of support from people in the municipality asking for the grant.

At its meeting Tuesday night, May 14, the Potsdam Town Council passed a resolution voicing support for the village’s efforts, as it has done in the past.

Businesspeople and others have also been asked to add their statements of support for the application and its proposals, which should boost its appeal to those who decided which municipality will get the $10 million prize.

More info: [email protected] or (315) 265-1670.