Wellsville to receive $4.5 million for downtown revitalization efforts

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, second from left, presents Wellsville Mayor Randy Shayler with a promotional check for $4.5 million this morning for downtown revitalization activities during an awards ceremony in Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, for three Western New York municipalities, while other Wellsville economic development team members look on.

BREAKING: The Village of Wellsville has been awarded a $4.5 million grant for downtown revitalization as part of the state’s New York Forward initiative.

The announcement from Gov. Kathy Hochul came today in the City of Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, as that community was awarded $1 million and the Village of Lancaster in Erie County also received $4.5 million.

Wellsville Mayor Randy Shayler, along with several members of the community’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative committee were on hand for the announcement.

Mayor Sayler

Awards now being made to smaller communities
The two villages, along with several others in the state, are being awarded first round funding from the new $100 million New York Forward effort which expands the “Plan-then-Act” strategy of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), according to the governor, which will help support a more equitable downtown recovery for New York’s smaller and rural communities.

As part of the first round of NY Forward, two to three awards are being granted to smaller communities in each of the state’s 10 economic development regions to support the development and implementation of a downtown revitalization plan.

Wellsville projects still forthcoming
No specific projects were announced as part of the award.

Instead, Wellsville will begin the process of developing a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown, according to state officials, with a Local Planning Committee comprised of municipal representatives, community leaders and other stakeholders leading the effort, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners.

The Strategic Investment Plan, authorities said, will examine local assets and opportunities to identify projects which align with each community’s vision and are poised for implementation.

Funds from the Strategic Investment Plan then will be awarded for selected projects which have the greatest potential to jump-start revitalization and generate new opportunities for long-term growth.

Gov. Hochul

The governor said the new smaller communities initiative comes in response to requests from local officials who said they needed financial assistance but were too small to use larger grant awards.

Award criteria
The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council recommended the awards based on a competitive review process which took into consideration:

  • A downtown being compact with well-defined boundaries;
  • The downtown can capitalize on prior, or catalyze future private and public investment;
  • Recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to, the downtown that can attract workers, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
  • The downtown is an attractive and livable community for diverse populations;
  • Municipality embraces, or has the ability to create and implement, policies that increase livability and quality of life;
  • Municipality has conducted open and robust community engagement to develop a preliminary list of projects and initiatives for downtown revitalization that may be included in a Strategic Investment Plan; 
  • Municipality has identified transformative projects ready for near-term implementation with an infusion of NY Forward funds; and
  • Municipality has the local capacity to manage the planning and implementation of projects, including the ability to oversee contracts for awarded municipal projects.

Wellsville’s selection attributes
The state noted, in making the award, that “Wellsville’s historic downtown has a significant collection of architecturally and historically significant buildings and benefits from its close proximity to Alfred State College and Alfred University.

“The Village of Wellsville’s vision is to capitalize on its unique small-town historic character while pursuing economic activity to create a community that is a thriving, walkable, equitable place.

“Building off recent commercial and industrial growth, Wellsville seeks to foster new projects that cultivate investment and attract new residents, including preserving and adaptively reusing historic buildings, creating new and diverse housing choices, improving its business park and investing in parks, trails and placemaking.”

Governor notes Wellsville’s charm
Gov. Hochul noted that “Wellsville is so charming. Have you ever seen the Pink House? That Pink House, it was built in 1866 or something. Started then, done in 1868. It’s on the National Historic Record of the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s amazing.

“That’s just one jewel you have there, but a lot of great homes and, and village. The city’s downtown and it’s a beautiful place. It has such potential. It really does, Mayor, and I know you know this. But again, people live there a long time and just don’t always feel it, what others see when you see the charm of it.

“So, you want to take your assets and let them be catalysts for other businesses to come.

“And I know on Main Street, the former Rockwell Department Store could become housing, you know, bringing that life and that energy downtown and making more retail space, or the municipal building could become hospitality space.

“The Grand Theater ….. so many of these downtowns have charming theaters and they’re just expensive to maintain and sometimes it just gets to be much. But they’re all – a lot of them are built around the same town that was hit hard by COVID, too. And they need some help getting back on their feet because that often is the center of activity. People go to theater and go to movies and, you know, I think there’s such great, great opportunities here.”

Mayor Sayler told the awards gathering that the village is in the midst of a turn around from economic downturns accentuated by the industrial shutdown of Dresser-Rand and retail closure of the former Kmart facility, with new growth including establishment of Kinley Advanced Technical Services and the Runnings home, farm and outdoor store in the two respective spaces.

He said the value of the state award is “substantial” for the size of the community.

“We are small and we like it that way,” Sayler said.

The entire awards announcement is available at https://bit.ly/3HrdFvY, with the mayor’s comments at approximately 27 minutes into the video.

— Photos: NYS via Facebook

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