North Country Regional Economic Development Council

Updates and Activities of the NCREDC

Governor Cuomo Announces City of Watertown as $10 Million North Country Winner of Second-Round Downtown Revitalization Initiative

State to Collaborate with North Country Regional Economic Development Council to Revitalize the City of Watertown’s Downtown

Part of Governor’s Comprehensive Approach to Transform Communities into Vibrant Neighborhoods and Boost Local Economies

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the City of Watertown will receive $10 million in funding and investments as the North Country Region winner of the second round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. As in the first round of the DRI, one municipality from each of the state’s 10 regional economic development regions will be selected as a $10 million winner, marking another overall state goal to target $100 million in funding and investments to help communities identify catalytic downtown projects to boost the local economy.

“Watertown’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award is a great step forward in our efforts to continue the North Country’s economic resurgence,” Governor Cuomo said. “Investing in this local community will attract jobs, private investment and future development to transform downtown Watertown into an economic engine for the entire region.”

The North Country Regional Economic Development Council went through a competitive review process of proposals from communities throughout the region and considered eight criteria before recommending Watertown as its nominee for winner:

  • The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
  • The municipality, or the downtown’s catchment area, should be of sufficient size to support a vibrant, year-round downtown;
  • 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, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;
  • 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; and
  • The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.

Watertown’s second-round DRI win entitles it to receive $10 million in state funding and investments to revitalize its downtown neighborhoods and generate new opportunities for long-term growth. It now joins the City of Plattsburgh, which was the North Country region’s winner in the first DRI round.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “Watertown is already the shopping epicenter for Jefferson County, much of that activity coming from Fort Drum service members and their families as the closest urban center to the base. By integrating downtown activities with the picturesque Black River and restoring its lost vibrancy at its core, Watertown will rebuild an environment where the kind of innovation that brought us the safety pin and five and dime stores can once again thrive.”

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Watertown is a great place to live, work and play and with DRI funding, the city can continue to build on assets like its historic architecture and waterfront access, to promote job creation and economic growth.”

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding will help invigorate Watertown’s downtown, offering opportunities for job creation and economic growth, while also making the area more livable to keep existing residents and attract new ones. The Department of State will continue to work closely with municipalities across New York State to help develop communities, including those in their downtowns.”

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative helps breathe new life and bring new opportunities into cities like Watertown, putting them on a path to prosperity. This $10 million investment in Watertown is part of a strategic goal to harness the amazing assets of downtowns across the state—increasing access to housing, creating jobs and attracting cultural and recreational opportunities, and enriching and improving quality of life in the entire region.”

Senator Patty Ritchie said, “Economic Development is the lifeline of any community and Downtown Watertown is one of the beating hearts of our region. In this day and age, you don’t have to re-invent, but you do need to revitalize. The city of Watertown has done a tremendous job in recent months of bringing businesses back downtown. This investment from New York State will help ensure Watertown can continue down that path and draw even more business and people downtown. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the potential Watertown has to grow.”

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne said, “Watertown’s downtown has experienced positive steps forward in recent years due, in large part, to private investment and support from several state programs. The infusion of funding announced by Governor Cuomo today will enable a more comprehensive approach that will also create excitement and interest in downtown Watertown, which is critical to its revitalization. I thank the governor for seeing our potential and investing in our future.”

Watertown Mayor Joseph Butler Jr. said, “It is a great day in Watertown and the North Country!  We thank Governor Cuomo for his support and for the investment our great State is making and for recognizing the potential that lives right here in Watertown.”


Watertown wants to amplify ongoing efforts at placemaking and adaptive reuse of historic and architecturally significant properties; improve walkability; and increase opportunities for commerce.  The city wants to strengthen its position as the primary hub of commerce and culture for Jefferson and neighboring counties, drawing residents from surrounding areas to its downtown assets and attracting visitor spending from seasonal residents and tourists. The downtown area is an intact 19th Century central business district approximately 0.25 square miles in area, and is an approximate 15-minute walk from one end to the other at its widest point. Within this area are several anchor institutions that include multi-family residential developments, major employers, professional services, civic buildings, and cultural and recreational destinations. It also contains a variety of housing types at different levels of affordability.

Watertown’s Public Square is a city center that serves as the primary venue for inclusive community and cultural events, diverse employment opportunities, and a place for residents and visitors to find unique goods and services. Unique architecture, the Black River Blueway Trail and opportunities for improved connections add to the positive experience in downtown. In recent years, the city has established momentum in its downtown revitalization efforts. A thriving downtown, which draws a constant stream of residents and visitors throughout business hours, evenings, and weekends will support the growth or maintain year-round, fulltime employment at downtown businesses.

Watertown 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 for downtown Watertown 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 downtown Watertown 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 DRI’s second round will be complete in early 2018.

For more information on the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, go to:

For audio, video, and photos of the announcement, go to:


This entry was posted on October 4, 2017 by in Events and tagged , .

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