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Potsdam announced as $10 million DRI winner

POTSDAM — Potsdam is number one in the North Country region as the winner of the $10 million state grant for the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

State, county and local officials gathered to hear the news delivered from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in the third floor conference room of Clarkson University’s Old Main building.

The near room, which became standing room only with more than 200 people, was all standing as they erupted into applause at the news.

Officials in Potsdam and other areas of the North Country region — which includes St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties — had been on pins and needles, waiting for the announcement.

Village Planning and Development Director Frederick Hanss saw this day coming back in late May when he told the Times, “So, this is our year.”

On Tuesday, he stood wiping tears from his eyes after the announcement, and he wasn’t alone.

Mayor Reinhold Tischler was also choked up over the announcement.

Holding the giant $10 million cardboard check following the announcement, he said it was the greatest moment in his 30 years in politics.

With the award, Reinhold told the crowd, “in our proposal we said we would collectively do four things with this incredible investment in our community. Think of them as the four Rs, we will revitalize, we will rebuild, we will rebound and as of today, we will rejoice.”

Hochul said the resilience of the village — to apply four years in a row — paid off, with a refined vision of what they wanted their community to be. She said the focus was on their core strengths, “the vibrant arts and cultural community, the theater, the fact that there are so many historic buildings that they can capitalize on.”

Hochul was referring to the theater in Old Snell Hall, which is about 98,000 square feet in size and seats about 500 people.

Hanss predicted in May that the theater was going to be the village’s golden egg in getting the $10 million, when he said the previous recipients of the $10 million DRI grant were each of those communities has a downtown theater.

At the time Hanss made his prediction, the state announced it was funding $5.6 million toward a $26 million renovation project of Clarkson University’s Old Snell Hall into 59 affordable housing apartments by The Vecino Group is a feather in the cap of the village.

That theater will be part of the renovation and will be occupied by the Arts Council and Shipley Center for Innovation.

Potsdam joins Fulton, in the Central Region; Baldwin, in Long Island; Peekskill, in Mid-Hudson; Hornell, in the Southern Tier; and Niagara Falls Bridge District, in Western New York.

Yet to be announced are the Capital Region, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and New York City.

Potsdam was joined by Canton, Massena and Ogdensburg in applying for the grant in St. Lawrence County. Lowville in Lewis County and Carthage and Cape Vincent in Jefferson County also applied.