In December 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that Little Falls will receive $10 million in funding as one of the Mohawk Valley region winners of the fifth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). As part of DRI Round 5, each of the state’s 10 regional economic development regions are being awarded $20 million, to make for a total state commitment of $200 million in funding and investments to help communities boost their post-COVID-19 economies by transforming downtowns into vibrant neighborhoods.
“All New Yorkers deserve access to a lively downtown area where they can find a well-paying job and an affordable place to live, and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative helps make this a reality,” Governor Hochul said. “The revitalization of Little Falls’ Waterfront District will be yet another success story of this project, as all who live and work there will enjoy continued economic prosperity and a pristine community environment.”
Little Falls’ DRI will focus on the Waterfront District. As the only city in Herkimer County, Little Falls wants to become the most desirable residential community in the region by reconnecting isolated parts of the city to create a single downtown waterfront district. The city has seen approximately $11.6 million in recent and ongoing investments and anticipates another $76.8 million in the future. These investments include new apartment housing, a bourbon distilling site, and a proposed new train station providing passenger service. Building on this momentum, Little Falls aims to increase housing opportunities, expand pedestrian/bike connectivity, and increase bike/pedestrian safety within the downtown area.
The Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council conducted a thorough and competitive review process of proposals submitted from communities throughout the region and considered all seven criteria below before recommending Little Falls as one of the nominees:
- The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
- The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
- There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment, and make growth sustainable;
- The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, incomes, gender, identity, ability, mobility, and cultural background;
- The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy-efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
- The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan;
- The municipality has the local capacity to manage the DRI process; and
- The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for near-term implementation with an infusion of DRI funds.
Little Falls now joins Gloversville as the Mohawk Valley Region’s winners of the fifth round of the DRI. Oneonta, Rome, Amsterdam and Utica were the Mohawk Valley Region’s winners in the first four DRI rounds, respectively.
Little Falls will now begin the process of developing a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown with up to $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million DRI grant. A Local Planning Committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders will lead the effort, supported by a team of private-sector experts and state planners. The Strategic Investment Plan will examine local assets and opportunities and identify economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation. The Strategic Investment Plan will guide the investment of DRI grant funds in revitalization projects that will advance the community’s vision for its downtown and that can leverage and expand upon the state’s $10 million investment. Plans for the DRI’s fifth round will be complete in 2022.