Watertown tapped to receive $10M for downtown revitalization

WATERTOWN — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday inside the Masonic Temple that the city will receive $10 million from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The governor gave his announcement speech to a large crowd of local officials and stakeholders packed inside the temple’s theater, where he reflected on the state’s efforts to reinvigorate the upstate New York economy through the Regional Economic Development Councils.

Cuomo noted that, with younger people continuing to leave upstate in favor of city life, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative was designed to help counteract that.

“People now want to be where people are,” he said. “Downtowns are very important. They want the social life. They want to be able to walk to the restaurant; they want to be able to walk to the cafe.”

Each REDC is charged with selecting which city will receive the funding. Officials in individual cities submitted proposals containing various projects that could help revitalize their downtown communities.

Consultant Leann West, co-founder of Strategic Development Specialists LLC, Watertown, worked with the city’s Planning Department on Watertown’s application for the downtown funding.

Once the 10 communities are selected, the process of developing the strategic investment plan will begin. A local planning committee will work with the consulting team, state planners and municipal officials to implement the investment plan.

City officials have said the funding could help restore the Masonic Temple, improve the city’s riverfront and undertake facade and streetscape work along the 100 and 200 blocks of Franklin Street, among other things.

City Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. praised the state for selecting Watertown to receive the funding this year.

“This DRI award will help us get where we want to be,” he said. “This funding will strengthen our economy, attract new business, create jobs, lift Watertown to new heights.”

The governor has toured the state in the last couple of weeks to make similar announcements in other communities. He was originally set to appear in the city this past Friday.

Potsdam was the only other community competing against Watertown on the western side of the region. Last year, Plattsburgh claimed the North Country’s $10 million slice of the pie.