PERRY — A Local Planning Committee and consultants need to identify projects that could each get a piece of the $10 million pie awarded the village in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding.
In the meantime, they plan an open call to solicit projects from the community.
The Local Planning Committee, or LPC for short, conducted its first meeting Thursday evening. It’s scheduled to get together again June 28, with a public open house set for June 29.
Monthly meetings in public are tentatively planned through mid-November. Urban Strategies Inc. of Toronto is working with the LPC.
LPC member Sandy Schneible is a volunteer and board member with the Perry Main Street Association. She asked during Thursday’s meeting how long the public call for projects would be open.
It has been decided the open call will close about the end of July.
“One of my biggest concerns is, how will folks who are interested in proposing projects be able to understand the requirements of them?” Schneible asked.
She asked if a sample project would be posted so someone can see what information he or she needs to put together, how much time there is to do that and who he or she can work with to do so.
Urban Strategies will develop a form with all of the information the consultants and Department of State are seeking, said revitalization specialist Samantha Aldrich of the New York State Department of State.
“As part of the open call, Urban Strategies is either going to host ... a project solicitation session and/or office hours where, if somebody was interested in obtaining information on how to fill out the form or what information they need, they can sit down directly with the team here and ask those questions face-to-face,” she said.
Perry was awarded $10 million in state DRI funding this February. The money can be used for downtown development and rehabilitation projects.
The DRI goals include creating an active downtown with strong sense of place; attracting new businesses; enhancing public spaces for arts and cultural events; building a diverse population supported by diverse housing and employment; increasing the tax base; and providing amenities that enhance downtown living.
The consultants from Urban Strategies say the village needs a strategic investment plan with projects intended to realize the community’s goals.
Eligible projects include new development and rehabilitation; public improvement; small project funds; and branding and marketing.
Ineligible projects are: standalone planning; operations and maintenance work; pre-award costs; property acquisition; and training and other program expenses.
Schneible said there’s a ton of interest in the DRI funding.
“I just want to make sure there’s ample opportunity for people to be able to get what they need to make decisions and act,” she said.
Aldrich said the goal is to have a list of projects that would be ready to be developed in the short term.
“That’s not saying that a project sponsor or an applicant would need all that information right up-front as part of the application,” she said. “That’s really where the consultant team can come in and fill in gaps. The open call is really an opportunity for new projects to come in that maybe the village didn’t know about when they were developing the application. We’re trying to gather as much information from a potential applicant as we can at the time of the open call.”
LPC member Daryl McLaughlin, who’s also superintendent of Perry Central School, said, “I am of the mindset that it needs to be longer than four weeks. I would push for six.”
Tim Smith, principal with Urban Strategies, said the goal is to look beyond the $10 million available through DRI and come up with projects that add up to $12 million or $15 million. Nobody knows for certain whether all the projects the LPC thinks are the priorities will qualify for funding.
“We want projects to be almost shovel-ready,” he said. “There may be some additional design work that’s needed to really clarify what the project needs to be and to determine its cost ... but they really need to be something that can get going in the next couple of years.”
Mark Reid, a partner at Urban Strategies, said a project website should be a resource for the project. All information discussed at the LPC meetings and public open houses will be posted so that the process is transparent.
“That’s important to the governor,” he said. “It’s important to us because we are actually dealing with significant funding. There needs to be a paper trail in terms of ‘How did you get from here to here?’”
Perry Mayor Rick Hauser said Perry’s downtown really exists at the intersection of Main Street and the Silver Lake Trail. The water body bisects downtown and links two of the village’s greatest recreational assets — Silver Lake and Letchworth State Park.
“Those are catalytic destinations,” he said. “In addition to being great assets for residents and citizens, they’re also assets that draw in the two constituencies we call ‘Lakers’ and ‘Parkers,’ who spend, sometimes, their entire summers at the lake or spend weeks or weekends at the park. They are part of our economic engine that have been supporting some of the terrific long-term businesses and new businesses that we see throughout Perry and downtown.”
During the public comment part of the meeting, resident Ernest Lawrence said a person who drives or walks down Main Street can see plainly that one of the more challenging areas is South Main Street.
“We have a couple of properties that are being renovated there now that’s going to help a great deal, but if some energy can be put into that part of town, that would be great,” he said. “You talked about the importance of the Outlet to the lake and the Silver Lake Trail. The place that it enters downtown is South Main Street.”
Lawrence said getting South Main Street in better shape would be a priority for him.
Mike Bellamy, who owns a vacation rental business, Silver Laken, said he thought he thought the borders were rigid and that a person couldn’t have a project outside them.
“Did I hear correctly today that eligible projects may include properties that are slightly outside the boundary as submitted on the application?” he asked.
Reid said a project slightly outside the boundary can be included if it meets the DRI program requirements and the DRI goals, objectives and mission.
“If you’re just over here, on the other side, why not, if it actually compliments all of the other things that are happening?” he said.
Bellamy asked if it’s important that the developer has control of the property being considered for DRI money
“Would a 20-year lease or a long-term lease meet the criteria for control of the property?” he asked.
Reid said, “I think we would want to speak with you one-on-one in terms of the relationship to the project sponsor.”
“I’m not saying ‘Yes.’ I’m not saying ‘No,’” he said. “It’s something to be fleshed out.”
Smith said something that will have an impact for 20 years could be considered to have a long-term impact, if the commitment’s there from the owner.
“With respect to the boundary question, a lot of thought ... has gone into it in making the application and the consideration, as he (Mayor Rick Hauser) said, of all the potential sites, including whether there’s an existing building, vacant building or empty site.”
“One of the goals is going to be about increasing the population — I think not only in downtown, but that supports downtown,” he said. “We’ll be considering that as we potentially improve that downtown boundary.”