OWEGO — Dozens gathered at the Owego Elk’s Lodge on Front Street in Owego Thursday afternoon as New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul came to the village to announce the downtown revitalization projects selected to receive a slice of the $10 million grant funds.
“I’ve done this all over the state,” Hochul said. “I want to commend the brilliance, creativity and the passion that went into the decisions that you made for your community.”
“I commend this community for stepping forth, believing in yourselves, caring enough in giving your countless hours and efforts to help us chart a brighter future for Owego and the surrounding area,” she continued.
Hochul believes Owego is headed in the right direction thanks to the grant funds — and the work of its residents.
“You’re never going to look back,” she said. “This community is going to be completely transformed because of your efforts. Never take that for granted. It’s a very special time in your lives and the life of this community.”
“Towns like this are now realizing that the charm lies in the past,” Hochul said. “The sense of restoring these downtowns — they look kind of like jewels in the rough. They just need a little polishing.”
The revitalization of the downtown may convince a new generation to choose Owego as their home, according to Hochul.
“So, $10 million will spruce up and give a facelift to this community,” said Hochul. “In a couple years, I guarantee you that the young people who may have left in the past will look at this area and say ‘you know what? This is the exact kind of place I want to raise my kids and I don’t have to leave for a good job.’”
“This kind of money can make a huge difference,” she added. “People are going to look back on this year and say ‘this is where it all began.’”
The following projects were awarded the noted funds:
- $1.4 million for improvements to Marvin Park, which includes play area improvements, reconstruction of the tennis and basketball courts, a skate park redesign and improvements in storm water drainage.
- $1.3 million to support diverse business community development. New buildings, and upgrades to existing buildings, for office, residential, commercial and studio space. These locations include 127 McMaster St., Ice Cream Works, Home Central, 171 Front St., The Cellar restaurant building, and 37-41 Lake St.
- $1.2 million to transform a vacant lot into the North Avenue Art Park, which includes an amphitheater, interactive sculptures and a new parking lot.
- $1 million toward the creation of a neighborhood nonprofit hub on North Depot Street, which will double as an emergency shelter for up to 150 people.
- $673,000 to expand the Tioga County Historical Society Museum with additional space, lecture hall and office space.
- $640,000 to enhance waterfront accessibility at the Susquehanna River and Owego Creek.
- $439,000 on the North Avenue Public Well Craft Brewery (formerly Thompson’s Market), which will feature refurbished apartments, rental suite, outdoor space and a public art wall.
- $491,000 for a modern industrial employment hub building by the expansion of the Applied Technology Manufacturing Corp. facility on Central Avenue.
- $476,000 for facade improvements.
- $441,000 for a better comprehensive downtown parking strategy.
- $350,000 for the creation of a comprehensive marketing strategy for Owego’s creative community and downtown businesses.
- $300,000 for upgrades at the Coburn Free Library, including an elevator system and meeting room space.
- $294,000 for sewer infrastructure improvements behind Lake Street.
- $290,000 for the expansion of the Ti-Ahwaga Performing Arts Center.
- $199,000 for the restoration of the historic Owego Central Fire Station.
- $123,000 for the renovation of 167-169 Main St. for mixed-use — commercial and residential space.
- $101,000 for improved lighting and electrical connections.
“The village is excited and ready to jump into these projects, along with our community and business partners,” said Owego Mayor Mike Baratta. “It will be a lot of work, but we’re up to the challenge. The end result will be our beautiful and historic village will be an even better place to live, work and play than ever before.”
Baratta believes the grant funding is a reward for the hard work and perseverance of the community.
“Our village has faced many challenges in its history — from fires and floods — and we’ve always rallied as a community,” he said. “This award is well-deserved to everyone who has stayed strong and been devoted to living here and running their businesses here, even through hardship.”
“The investment of the community in this process was extremely important,” Baratta added. “And we were pleased to see so many of our residents and business owners engaged in public meetings, sharing their thoughts and ideas.”
Thanking Hochul for delivering the message, Legislative Chair Martha Sauerbrey said “you’ve traveled across this great state of ours, visited communities and you’ve seen the changes this initiative brings … so you know first hand how positively this effort will change this community.”
“Our village has a great history of community involvement,” she continued. “We are resilient, work hard and we care deeply about our village and its future. This DRI investment will improve and preserve our village for the future, and create new opportunities for people who live, work and play right here in this village.”
“Let’s celebrate today, and tomorrow, we go to work,” Sauerbrey added.