The 15-member Local Planning Committee (LPC) for Gloversville’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative held its first meeting Wednesday via Zoom, and voted unanimously to have an “open call” submission period for new eligible projects to apply for DRI funding to run from Friday to Feb. 25.
Gloversville’s DRI consultant Lisa Nagle, a founding member of Elan Planning, which is consulting with the city on the initiative, told the members of the LPC that the committee will “vet and refine” the submissions from the public, which can be submitted either via email or a hard copy dropped off at city hall. Nagle said the DRI open call application form will be posted Friday at cityofgloversvilledri.com/open-call.
“This is for projects that perhaps weren’t ready at the time of the [DRI contest] application or have just surfaced, or that somebody has been thinking about and this is the time that they’d like to come forward with their project,” Nagle said.
In December, Gloversville was awarded one of two $10 million DRI grants awarded to the Mohawk Valley region during the fifth round of the annual economic development contest. The city’s successful DRI application included 18 potential economic development projects, which, if totally funded, would account for a combined $45.8 million in public and private sector investment into the city’s downtown area, about $10 million of that coming from the DRI grant and another $1 million coming from the city.
But it will be up to the members of the Local Planning Committee, co-chaired by Mayor Vince DeSantis and Lexington ARC Business Development Director Wally Hart, to select which of the 18 original ideas will be submitted to the state for DRI funding in May, as well as which “open call projects” submitted by members of the public during the open submission process will be added to the list.
Nagle said the LPC will document all of the project proposals, some of which might be better suited for other funding sources than the DRI, and then put together a “final slate” of projects to submit to the state, which she said will in total request about $15 million in state funding, and then state economic development officials will decide which of the ideas will receive funding from the grant and how much.
DeSantis said the decision whether or not to have an “open call” for projects is really the first decision made by the 15-member LPC.
“We want as many people as possible, as many project sponsors as possible, to have a chance to submit a project,” DeSantis said. “Casting a wide net is probably a very valuable thing.”
Committee member, and Fulton County Center for Regional Growth President, Ron Peters put forward the motion to establish the open call, which was seconded by Fulton Montgomery Community College President Greg Truckenmiller.
“I feel it’s important that people do not feel like we had a preconceived notion of everything we’re going to do in this [DRI] process, and there might be good ideas we haven’t heard of yet,” said committee member David Halloran, also superintendent of the Gloversville Enlarged School District.
After the unanimous vote to establish the open call for projects, several members of the committee, including LeShawn Hawkins, founder of the nonprofit “I can Breathe and I will Speak,” suggested that the original time span for the open call period, which would have been two weeks, from Friday to Feb. 18, was too short a time frame, and that the amount of time should be extended an additional week. The consensus of the committee agreed.
New York state Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez also addressed the meeting Wednesday night saying the city’s DRI application showed the passion community members have for wanting to revitalize Gloversville. He praised DeSantis, as well as State. Sen. James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, and Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Johnstown, for supporting the city’s efforts.
“I’ll start with a quote, ‘The regeneration of a community does not happen by itself, it requires vigilance and targeted action, by civic leaders and the enthusiasm of a critical mass of citizens’ — those are not my words, those are the words of Mayor DeSantis in his book,” Rodriguez said, quoting from DeSantis’ 2007 book “Toward Civic Integrity, Re-Establishing the Micropolis.”
Rodriguez said DeSantis’ words summarize the local community passion and support that is needed to make state’s DRI program succeed. He said the days of “urban renewal” supported by the state in past decades are long over, and Gloversville is in some ways better off than other communities because it still has many of the historic buildings in its downtown, like the Glove Theatre, that were torn down in other places. He said the state has learned that top-down economic planning doesn’t work, and that the ideas for urban renewal need to come from bottom-up community involvement.
“As the cornerstone of the state’s economic development programs, the DRI is really the grand prize, because it’s not the state coming in and telling you what you should be doing about development in your community — that’s not what this is about,” Rodriguez said. “It’s about the community telling us the state how we can facilitate community driven plans with local stakeholders coming together picking what they believe is going to be the key projects and investments that will make change in the downtown.”
Nagle said the open call for additional projects is a good example of how the DRI process tries to continually promote local involvement. She explained more of the details of how the open call will work.
She said both public sector and private sector projects are eligible for funding through the process, and private sector economic development projects can be either for-profit or non-profit, as long as they are “shovel-ready,” can meet the funding match requirements and fit into the broad types of projects the state is looking to fund through the $10 million DRI program, including: new development projects, redevelopment or rehabilitation of existing businesses, site improvement of existing businesses or branding and marketing projects.
These criteria will also be applied to any open call projects submitted to the LPC:
• To be eligible for DRI funding a project must make a minimum request for DRI funding of $100,000
• DRI funding for private sector, for-profit projects can equal no more than 40% of the total cost of the project, unless the project also supports “meaningful carbon reduction goals, including full electrification and net-zero building performance”, in which case the DRI funding can equal up to 50% of the total project cost. For for-profit projects the applicant must also be able to show at least a 10% cash equity towards the total project cost.
• DRI funding for public and not-for-profit projects can equal 100% of the total project cost.
State officials advised the Gloversville LPC that typically the state likes to see projects with a total cost of around $500,000, with the DRI fund putting in 20% at $100,000, so other funding sources are contributing about four times as much as the state.
Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer is representing the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Council on the committee. He said he’s already sent a chamber email-blast to all of its members alerting them to the possibility of submitting a project application for DRI funding.
Peters suggested the Fulton County CRG create radio-ads through its account with WENT to promote open call period for DRI projects.
Nagle said she and the other economic development consultants working with the city will help the open call project submissions with their applications.
“There is a lot of information that is required to be evaluated for inclusion in that final slate — I can’t over-emphasize that,” Nagle said. “So, anyone listening in the public or anyone on the LPC who knows anybody who’s interested in submitting a project request … this is really kind of an ASAP, for real, try to get your information together, and once we get the bulk of the information the consulting team will work backward with the project applicants to fill-out and refine and get the correct information so everyone on the LPC, our state partners and the public, when you see the projects, can make informed decisions.”
During the virtual LPC meeting the members of the committee were also told they must sign the “DRI Code of Conduct” by Feb. 15. The code requires the committee members to act in the public interest, “regardless of their affiliation with, or relationship to, any business, municipality, not-for-profit, agency, program, entity, or interest group.”
The DRI Code of Conduct requires LPC members to disclose any conflicts of interest they might have with respect to the committee’s votes to support different economic development projects for DRI funding, and to recuse or “disqualify” themselves if necessary.
“For purposes of this Code of Conduct, a conflict of interest arises if such an exercise results in any benefit to the Member, or a Family Member or Relative of the Member, that is more than incidental,” reads the DRI Code of Conduct. “A conflict of interest may occur when the personal interests, financial or otherwise, of a member’s has the potential to interfere with, or appear to interfere with, the member’s independent advice.”
The next step in the DRI process will be a public engagement process, starting with a one-week “Virtual Open House”, which will start with a live “webinar” presentation on Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. — livestreamed to city Facebook page.
During the Virtual Open House the city’s DRI consultants will be seeking public input on the potential DRI projects and the city’s overall “vision and goals” for the process.