Gloversville mayor lays out revitalization plans

Gloversville Mayor Vincent DeSantis presented a slide show on revitalization goals and strategies for the city at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Vincent DeSantis laid out revitalization goals and strategies in a presentation to city residents at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

DeSantis explained that he prepared the presentation featuring goals and actions steps for both the city’s downtown and the city as a whole in January after being named mayor. He has since delivered the presentation to all city departments and wants to begin sharing the information with residents.

“Every one of our employees has seen this presentation, because I wanted them to see the long-term goals and wanted them to realize how important their job was and what we’re all working toward,” DeSantis said. “This is the first time I’ve done it publicly, but there will be many other times.”

DeSantis acknowledged that Wednesday’s presentation attended by just five members of the public along with Councilman-at-Large Steven Smith was little publicized by design, saying he is still perfecting the delivery of information that he intends to share throughout the city to ensure residents understand the long-term plans, have a chance to comment and recognize the successful implementation of goals as they occur.

“I want as many people to see this as possible,” DeSantis said. “Then when we achieve a success, they’ll say ‘that was part of the plan, we’re getting there,’ instead of them thinking of that as kind of a maverick event.”

Goals and strategies for revitalization of downtown were primarily cultivated from the downtown development strategy prepared by LaBella Associates, In.Site:Architecture and Creighton Manning Engineering based on community input and market analysis.

Goals include developing the upper floors of existing buildings for residential and office uses, attracting retail and restaurants, providing opportunities for infill development, encouraging entrepreneurship, supporting small business growth with funding and expanding entertainment options.

Focus will be on the development of 50 new residential units in existing buildings, 100 new residential units in new buildings, two to three new regional restaurants totaling 10,000 square feet and one small hotel or several bed and breakfasts.

Additional action items include restoring the Glove Theatre, expanding funding options for small businesses and the development of a business incubator by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth to provide a variety of startup spaces and mentorship for new business owners.

Goals for the city as a whole include improved marketing, beautification of the streetscape, enhanced recreation options, creation of new development opportunities, improving residential property values, increasing population and completely redeveloping at least one neighborhood.

Strategies include development of a social media presence, an updated inventory of buildings, renovation of existing parks, creation of new parks, including a dog park and spray park, renewed enforcement against blight, planting of streetside trees, redevelopment of brownfield sites, expansion of funding to income qualified homeowners to make needed repairs and redeveloping the Burr Street neighborhood.

“If you redevelop one house in the neighborhood you really don’t impact the neighborhood very much, but if you redevelop the whole neighborhood and include street trees and new curbing and sidewalks and put in green space in the middle of it, you really have changed the whole character of the neighborhood, so that’s what we’re hoping to achieve,” DeSantis said.

The city is currently working to implement these strategies through the development of a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for the area surrounding the Cayadutta Creek through a $78,000 grant award from the state Department of State through Round VIII of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative in December covering 75 percent of the study’s cost.

An LWRP is a land and water use plan that identifies long term uses and implementation strategies. LWRPs are subject to state approval that will allow the city to apply for up to 50 percent grant funding for projects related to waterfront redevelopment. Roughly 50 percent of the city’s residential neighborhoods surrounding the Cayadutta Creek could be eligible for future grant funding due to the flexibility of the term “waterfront” under the state revitalization program.

Additionally, the city is preparing a Consolidated Funding Application to the state Department of State’s Brownfield Opportunity Area program to fund the development of long-term plans for the areas of two identified brownfield sites, including site assessments, revitalization plans and implementation strategies. Approval of the completed plan by the state can open additional grant funding opportunities and a 6 percent income tax credit applied to any private development in the BOA.

The first area extends along South Main Street to include the entire Burr Street area, reaching south to include the former Continental Mills site on Beaver Street and the old Independent Leather Manufacturing Corporation site on South Main Street.

The second area extends to the north on South Main Street, beginning at West Pine Street to include several former glove factories on South Main Street including the former site of Zimmer & Son Gloves, extending up to the Cayadutta Creek to encompass Lincoln Street and the former Decca Records plant on Lincoln Street and ending at North Street.

“One of our goals is to get these former industrial sites redeveloped into useful areas that will enhance the qualities of the areas rather than detract from it,” DeSantis said.

Enhancing the quality of neighborhoods through code enforcement surrounding blight is another of DeSantis’ major goals as he looks to roll out a city code update possibly later this month that would see minor violations ticketed and assessed a modest fine, similar to a parking ticket.

The new regulations will include such minor violations as putting garbage or recyclables out on non-collection days, improperly storing debris or failing to shovel sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowstorm.

More serious violations and structural concerns will continue to be addressed by city code enforcers issuing property owners orders of violation giving a set number of days to resolve the violation. Homeowners are served with an appearance ticket if violations are not corrected.

“Neighbors don’t invest in their homes, because they live next to this,” DeSantis said displaying images of residential properties in the city with yards and porches littered with debris and in a state of disrepair. “This is like a big sign that says ‘do not invest in this city, do not buy a house in this neighborhood.’ If you have one house that looks like that, the entire neighborhood is unmarketable.”

“We have laws that have been on the books for years that call this unacceptable, but we’ve never enforced it,” DeSantis said. “We’re not going to tolerate this any more.”

By Patricia Older

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