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North Country waits for governor to announce DRI funding winner

The cost of renovations to the Mid Town Plaza, seen Wednesday, is included in Canton’s DRI grant application. (Provided photo — Christopher Lenney, Watertown Daily Times)

The waiting game may continue a few more weeks for North Country communities that are competing for $10 million from the state in this year’s round of Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding.

In August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the winners in four of the state’s 10 economic development regions, including Central New York, Western New York, Long Island and mid-Hudson.

He has not yet announced the winners in the remaining six regions, including the North Country that includes St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties.

“It’s always a waiting game,” said Fred Hanss, Potsdam community development director. “I’m hoping no news is good news.”

Adam Ostrowski, a spokesman for the state’s Empire State Development Office, said Wednesday the winners should be announced within the next few weeks.

“The timing of the Round 4 Downtown Revitalization Initiative announcements is consistent with the three previous rounds and we expect the remaining announcements to be made in the coming weeks,” Ostrowski said in an emailed response.

This is the fourth consecutive year the village of Potsdam has competed for the funding by submitting a DRI application.

This year, Hanss said Potsdam has placed more emphasis on developing its arts and cultural anchors in the downtown area, including the North Country Children’s Museum and the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

It’s competing with several other municipalities. Canton Economic Development Director Leigh Rodriguez said last year, Saranac Lake was notified on Aug. 7 that it was the North Country winner for the DRI funding.

“It’s later than last year, but he has always staggered the announcements,” Rodriguez said. “It’s kept very tight lipped.”

Potential projects in the village of Canton’s application include renovating the mostly vacant Midtown Plaza off Miner Street. That plan involves a partnership with SUNY Canton to redevelop the space for mixed uses. An outdoor amphitheater and an indoor performing arts center are other possibilities.

In St. Lawrence County, the village of Massena and city of Ogdensburg have also applied for the funding.

Economic development officials said the governor typically doesn’t identify DRI winners until he visits the winning municipality to make the announcement.

Usually, his office only gives one day’s notice that the governor will be traveling to a specific community to make an announcement.

So far, he has announced that this year’s winners include the city of Fulton for the Central New York region; Baldwin for the Long Island region; the city of Peekskill in the mid-Hudson region, and the Niagara Falls Bridge District in the Western New York region.

Created in 2016, the state’s DRI program divides the state into 10 regions, providing $10 million a year to one community in each of the 10 regions.

In the North Country region, the city of Plattsburgh was the first winner, followed by the city of Watertown in 2017 and Saranac Lake last year.

The state is broken down into 10 Regional Economic Development Councils that review applications and nominates communities for the award based on their potential for transforming their downtowns. The $10 million is to help winning communities develop a downtown strategic plan and implement key projects.

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