St. Lawrence County’s only city eyes $10 million economic prize

Officials in Ogdensburg are hoping the distinction of being St. Lawrence County’s only city — coupled with an abundance of vacant riverfront property — will help it secure a $10 million grant through Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The latest competitive grant program being spearheaded by Gov. Cuomo’s administration is a $100 million effort aimed at revitalizing 10 communities within a seven-county region through individual awards of $10 million.

The municipalities with the best redevelopment strategies will be selected, according to state officials.

Ogdensburg City Manager Sarah Purdy told City Council on Thursday that the city’s grant application will focus on a huge swath of waterfront property along the St. Lawrence River that remains undeveloped. The land, much of it once used by former industries, remains in varying states of remediation.

All told, the city’s DRI grant application will include 330 acres of waterfront property, including the municipality’s greenbelt and marina areas and the city-owned Maple City trail along the Oswegatchie River.

“I think for us, the thinking here is that we’ve got a very interesting and potentially vital waterfront for the only city in the county of St. Lawrence,” Ms. Purdy said. “And that’s what makes us special.”

In addition to being St. Lawrence County’s only city — and having an abundance of property along the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Oswegatchie rivers — Ms. Purdy suggested that Ogdensburg’s long history and success to date with cleaning up its old industrial sites also bode well for the municipality.

She said state officials often look to a community’s commitment to a revitalization plan before choosing to offer funding for an initiative. With that in mind, Ms. Purdy said Ogdensburg Planning and Development Director Andrea L. Smith has done an excellent job of making sure the city’s $10 million grant application emphasizes the community’s past accomplishments working with state and federal officials to clean up pollution.

“Andrea has done an excellent job mentioning all of the plans and all of the agencies committed to help fund us in the past to show that the city has been very seriously committed to working on this for the last 20 years,” Ms. Purdy said. “This is not some overnight thing, it is something that this city has been dedicated to for quite some time.”

Ms. Purdy said the ongoing expansion of the Ogdensburg International Airport and the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority’s ability to create and maintain economic activity in the region should also bode well for the city during the application process.

Gov. Cuomo launched the $100 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in April as part of what he called a comprehensive approach to transform communities ripe for development into vibrant neighborhoods.

The program was first presented in the governor’s 2016 State of the State Address and called for investing $10 million into 10 downtown neighborhoods across the state.

The downtown areas will be selected by the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils.

By Larry Robinson, Watertown Daily Times