People First was awarded a New York State Main Street Program grant for downtown revitalization in the amount of $500,000. The goal of the program was to rehabilitate and preserve 37 historic commercial and residential units on three contiguous blocks bounded by the “Busy Corner” of Genesee/Bleecker Streets and Bleecker/John Streets in Downtown Utica. Of the 120 applications submitted for the Main Street Program, People First was one of 39 which were approved for funding.
Applications for individual projects were distributed to building and business owners who applied for a matching grant to renovate and repair storefronts, upper floor residential units, accessibility and energy upgrades. A project review committee then reviewed and ranked the various applications based upon a predetermined ranking criteria.
Priority was afforded to the following kinds of projects:
- Properties where immediate action would help alleviate or prevent dangers to the health and safety of the community; historic properties in danger of being lost, in part or in total, to disrepair or damage.
- Properties where façade improvement would reduce blight or contribute to the economic recovery of the target area, or properties that include a residential component.
- Design guidelines that applied to the downtown district would need to be followed for any project using grant monies. These guidelines were distributed along with the project applications at the meeting.
The New York State Main Street Program provides financial resources and technical assistance to communities to strengthen the economic vitality of the State’s traditional Main Streets and neighborhoods. This grant program provides funds from the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation (HTFC) to business improvement districts and other not-for-profit organizations that are committed to revitalizing historic downtowns, mixed-use neighborhood commercial districts, and village centers.