Ideas shared to help city flourish

Ed Flynn from LaBella Associates speaks in downtown Gloversville on Wednesday. Flynn was leading a group around the downtown area seeking their input on possible improvements that could be made. (The Leader-Herald/Kerry Minor )

GLOVERSVILLE — The ideas flowed easily. More benches and places to sit, better connection between North and South Main Streets, lighting that feels more authentic to the style of the buildings. The ways to improve downtown ranged from simply putting more flowers in to larger ones like finding a place to host concerts.

On Wednesday, about 40 members of the public, city and county government and business community gathered at the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce for the Downtown Development Strategy meeting to discuss ways to improve downtown.

The meeting was facilitated by LaBella Associates of Rochester, a company hired by the city in April to put together the plan for the future of downtown along with Insight Architecture.

Third Ward Councilman Vincent DeSantis said the city has been taking a number of steps in the past year aimed at improving the downtown area and bringing in more people.

“We have changed many of the ordinances in the city to enhance our enforcement of substandard and blight properties,” DeSantis said.

He also highlighted the hiring of Jennifer Jennings as Downtown Development Specialist and Zachary Schwartz as the Neighborhood Quality Administrator and writing grants for CRG to develop their Fulton Street facility into a business incubator.

“We are hoping things are moving forward generally on a lot of different fronts,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said he has been hoping for a number of years to have a downtown development strategy.

“So that the public can have input in what our urban core will become eventually,” DeSantis said.

According to information given out at the event, The plan needs to build a consistent vision on Downtown Revitalization Efforts; identify opportunities, constraints and issues; provide data to investors; and initiate a downtown rebranding program among others.

Information at the event included stages of Downtown Revitalization which takes six to 10 years to reach critical mass and includes things such as events, housing, retail and offices.

Critical partners in Downtown Revitalization include the Common Council, Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and the Gloversville Downtown Business Improvement District.

Ed Flynn of LaBella Associates said the idea of the downtown development strategy is to continue the forward momentum that has been made over the last few years.

Flynn said the process will be in three different phases: the first will look at where the city has been; the second, will explore where they city is going. He said they were starting that phase during the meeting by asking the public where it sees the future of downtown.

The final step in the process will be to look at how to achieve the vision created in the other two steps.

“We will have an implementation strategy to give to the city to show what the next steps are. We also want to make sure that we have the information we are going to develop tonight featuring the building renovation plans and the master plan and share it not only with the community but with investors and developers so they can be interested in developing downtown Gloversville,” Flynn said. “We all know its a great place, but we want to tell everyone else about it.”

Rick Hauser of LaBella Associates said the workshop served as a chance to communicate with the consultant team. He said they have met one-on-one with stakeholders in the community and plan to continue doing that.

“That’s the key. If you are going to do a downtown strategy, you need input. You need to understand where the community wants to go, where your priorities are and take input from different perspectives,” Hauser said.

Information will be shared with a steering committee, Hauser said.

“[The steering committee] will then arrive at a vision that is do-able, that is strategic and that gets you where you want to be,” Hauser said.

Jennings said Friday that the two groups were also on hand for stakeholder meetings.

DeSantis said this will be the first workshop in the year-long process of creating the plan that will be completed in March 2018.

Kerry Minor can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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