A Tale of Three City-Improvement Initiatives A Tale of Three City-Improvement Initiatives

How New Downtown Development Programs Aim to Revitalize the Community

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) Starting about two weeks ago on November 1, the city of Syracuse is accepting applications for their South Salina Street Façade Improvement Program. Through this program, the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development can allocate funds to businesses looking to set up shop on Salina street–funds to help beautify the exterior of those businesses. This initiative is the latest in a string of programs looking to improve downtown Syracuse–both in its looks and its function.

For example, the Façade Improvement Program shares its vision of an improved downtown with the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). Announced in 2021, the Initiative is an economic development program that focuses on several projects each year, all with the goal of adding to what downtown Syracuse has to offer. Unlike the Façade program, however, the DRI can do more than fund exterior improvements; in its mission to create affordable housing, greenspaces, and better infrastructure, the DRI adopts projects that often involve whole building renovations or large-scale changes. Some of the most recently proposed DRI projects include planting more trees along the streets of southwest Syracuse, redeveloping various properties to turn them into housing properties or restaurants, and improving community centers and parks.

These ideas intrigued Julie Corsette, owner of J. Lorraine Salon in Armory Square. She told NCC News she hopes initiatives like these, improving both the aesthetic and experience of downtown, can attract new small businesses to the area.

“I hope [the improvements] bring in small businesses and shopping,” she said, “to add to the experience of living downtown.”

Some of the biggest changes to downtown can manifest not only through applications and initiatives, but through grants. The Downtown Committee of Syracuse was recently awarded funds from the New York Main Street Grant program, a statewide project that supports local governments and non-profits seeking to maintain and grow their downtown communities. The Committee’s application, organized by their economic development specialist Conor Rockhill, earned them exactly what they’d asked for: over $200,000 to help improve areas of downtown that the DRI and Façade programs could miss.

“All in all, we received exactly what we asked for from the state,” Rockhill explained. “We applied for a very precise number: $232,540.”

Rockhill says him and his team plan to use those funds to pay for street-scape development (such as the addition of public benches, trash cans, and lights in trees), administrative costs, building renovations, and façade improvements.

His team–and the Committee as a whole–are sure they can reach these goals. Heather Schroeder, the Committee’s Deputy Director, told NCC News she’s 100% confident they can make their plans a reality.

“This is our 7th round of New York Main Street funding over the course of about a dozen years,” she said. “They don’t give you more money if you didn’t accomplish what you said you were going to do with the last pot of money.”

Between the days-old Main Street Grant, the weeks-old Salina Street Façade Improvement Program, and the years-old Downtown Revitalization Initiative, downtown Syracuse could be seeing makeovers in its very near future. For more information on exactly which projects the DRI may cover–or to propose your own ideas–check out the DRI’s projects page here.

I’m here in Clinton Square, where they’re already decorating for the holidays. But thanks to some new initiatives, it’s not just this square that’s getting a makeover–it’s all of downtown.

The city of Syracuse has just announced their South Salina Street Façade Improvement Program, an initiative allowing the city to provide funding for façade and exterior improvements for businesses opening on Salina street. Applications for this program are open until January twelfth.

This new Façade Improvement Program seems to share a vision with an older economic program in Syracuse: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or D-R-I. Announced in 20-21, the D-R-I can support more than just beautification efforts: it aims to improve Syracuse’s real estate, create affordable housing, and improve public infrastructure and green spaces.

Local business owner Julie Corsette told N-C-C News she hopes the D-R-I’s efforts will attract more businesses.

“I’d just like to see a lot more small businesses come in here, a lot more different things for people to do, a lot more restaurants come in.”

According to the D-R-I’s website, Julie will get her wish. This year’s proposed projects include renovating old, unused buildings to create more retail and office space, as well as investing in WiFi services, housing, and even electric car charging stations.

To learn more about downtown improvements, I attended a board meeting with the Downtown Committee of Syracuse.

“Fifteen thousand dollars for street-scape enhancement, that could include anything from trash cans, street benches… The biggest part of that is two hundred thousand one hundred dollars, which goes toward façade improvements, tenant buildout, and building renovations.”

Through these initiatives, like the holiday lights cropping up all over town, the future of downtown Syracuse is shining bright. Riley Pratt, N-C-C News.

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