The heart of any community is its downtown. This is often the first impression of a place that a person forms when they visit. It’s the place where people gather to eat, shop and be …
The heart of any community is its downtown. This is often the first impression of a place that a person forms when they visit. It’s the place where people gather to eat, shop and be entertained.
It shouldn’t come as news that downtowns and main streets in Sullivan County’s major municipalities - particularly Liberty and Monticello - have slowly decayed over many years. Take a look at any photo of Main Street in Liberty or Broadway in Monticello from as recently as 40 years ago to see the difference. Bustling streets supported many small businesses, restaurants, movie theaters, department stores and more. That all changed in a generation.
Now Monticello and Liberty are both in the running for a state program that could help bring back some of that past and inject millions of dollars into our local communities.
According to the State, New York’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) seeks to “transform downtown neighborhoods into vibrant centers that offer a high quality of life and are magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, and economic and housing diversity.”
The program prioritizes walkable downtowns that they say are the key ingredient to helping communities rebuild their economies from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now its fifth year, the program is bigger than ever before with plans to invest $200 million in up to 20 additional downtowns across the Empire State.
Participating communities are nominated by the state’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) based on the downtown’s potential for transformation. The State says that within each region, the REDC will nominate either two downtowns to receive $10 million each or one downtown to receive an award of $20 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization.
As the Democrat reported back in August, Liberty has ambitious plans that include developing the historic main street theater, the Sullivan County Golf Course and attracting a new developer to the former site of the Grossinger’s Catskill Resort. In a separate application, Monticello wants to breathe new life into our county seat and the largest urban center to capitalize on its potential as the “gateway to the Catskills.”
It’s a very competitive process and there’s many other communities throughout New York with their eyes on this money, but we have to be in it to win it. It’s difficult to overstate just how much this money could help transform Liberty and Monticello and build a brighter future for all of Sullivan County.