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Workers recently completed installing a new roof on Huhtamaki’s finished goods warehouse in Fulton as part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, (DRI), program.

‘Good Things’ Are Happening in Fulton

By Steve Yablonski

City’s DRI projects are moving ahead

The city of Fulton is positioned to see “significant positive impact” from its Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) award, according to Mayor Deana Michaels.

“As a recipient community, investors, developers and small businesses from both inside and outside the city are showing interest that will result in investment far beyond the DRI $10 million,” she said.

In August 2019, the city was chosen to receive the $10 million grant to use for revitalizing its downtown area.

“Nothing has been completed; it’s all still in the early phases,” said Sarah Farley, executive director of Fulton’s Community Development Agency. “The state has given its OK on the projects. They were approved in 2021.”

The DRI award is broken up into 16 projects. Some of those are municipal, city projects and some are privately owned businesses, Farley explained.

“The Huhtamaki project, for example, is under way. But almost all of the projects at this point have had their contracts set up with the state and are, some way or another, moving forward,” Farley said.

Once the contracts are completely set up, there will be an environmental review process that has to happen. So most of these projects won’t begin until the spring of 2023, she said, adding that it will be probably 2024 for completion on most of these, depending on the size of the project.

The county Industrial Development Agency owns a small parcel of land on the Nestle site. The project is to build a manufacturing incubator facility. And the Nestle site itself is in the DRI zone, but that particular project is the only DRI project on the Nestle site.

Officials hope to attract and expand advanced start-up manufacturing businesses to the site.

“Building 30 is an abandoned building that is kitty-corner from Aldi and it is the last remaining standing building from Nestle,” Farley said.

A developer purchased the property and they are converting that into housing. There is talk about on the ground floor of that housing unit having some of the Nestle museum memorabilia there, she noted.

The abandoned former Nestle building will be renovated and repurposed into a mixed-use development. Proposed uses include 55-65 residential units, office space and a restaurant.

Public input

The public has been involved since back in the initial phase when the city was applying for the DRI.

“The state required us to create what is called a local planning committee. That was comprised of community development, local business owners and community members,” Farley explained. “There was public input, a public hearing session that ultimately determined what projects the city would be applying for. As a committee, they made determinations as to what projects they’d wanted to see included as part of the DRI.”

The city weighed in and made the final decision. Then the state approved 16 projects from the local planning committee’s submissions.

Not everything got approved.

“There were a lot of projects that were applied for the DRI that weren’t approved. There were more applied for than what the $10 million would cover,” Farley said. “So the state had the final say over which projects they think will be the most transformational for the city.”

Huhtamaki’s project is under way. They have begun facility and infrastructure upgrades at the manufacturing campus to maintain jobs, enhance streetscapes and improve pedestrian safety.

Fulton is creating a business assistance fund to provide resources and financial support to encourage downtown revitalization — $750,000.

The funds will help local businesses with building upgrades, permanent equipment purchases and technical assistance.

“The grant funds, I probably have the most direct involvement with. My agency is administering that. It is available for building renovations, sign and façade improvements for any business in the DRI zone,” Farley said. “That contract has already been set up with the state. Our application for businesses to apply for those funds is currently open. We are accepting applications through Oct. 3.

“Those are going to be a lot of smaller projects. You know, a lot of signs, awnings, exterior façade improvements and lighting—that sort of thing.”

They are going to be announced and awarded in November.

Some of those, if they are just a sign or awning improvement, will probably happen the quickest, she added.

“Anything that is construction that has to go through that environmental review process most likely won’t start until the spring of 2023,” she said. “But some of the sign and awning improvement we may start to see some of that around the very end of this year at the soonest.”

The casual food restaurant is the O’Brien project. It is under way and architects are working on different designs.

The project in downtown Fulton will undertake interior and exterior renovations of a vacant building to create a counter service restaurant with a globally influenced menu. The site will include an outdoor patio and drive-thru pick-up window.

“The restaurant, at 371 S. Second St., tentatively scheduled to open in the fall 2023, will offer full service and is designed to have both indoor and outdoor seating,” Mayor Michaels said earlier this summer. “We are delighted that Laurie and Will O’Brien, owners of the Port City Café & Bakery and the Red Sun Fire Roasting Co. in Oswego, are making this investment in Fulton.”

There are also plans to restore and transform an abandoned historic building into an inn and café. The building located at 181 S. First St. will become the Kings Road Inn, a four- to six-room inn with cafe and coffee lounge. The structure is known as the Case-Lee House.

Good ‘Vibes’

The city wants to create a “downtown vibe” through multi-site improvements. It will undertake renovation and expansion activities at several commercial locations in the center of Fulton’s downtown.

“There were originally six projects awarded. Three of them are not moving forward, unfortunately,” Farley said. “Tavern on the Lock expansion, Fulton Family Medicine renovations and what was called the Cayuga Street Café—those are three projects that are most likely going to be moving forward with that downtown vibe.”

Some of the other projects are:

• The rehabilitation of a strip mall visible from the 481 gateway for new and existing tenants. New tenants will include a barber shop and beauty supply store.

• Bring additional medical services to downtown Fulton through the expansion of Oswego Health’s Fulton campus.

• Make improvements to the CNY Community Arts Center by leveling the roof over the south side of the building to match the existing mezzanine roof level, creating new usable space for expanded activities, and completing on-site sewer repair work.

• Modernize and enhance the city’s waterfront area and Canal Landing Marina to create a premium destination and attraction for boaters, visitors and residents, while establishing a strong connection to the core downtown area.

“The city itself is making significant investment in our own business approach such as marketing, promotion, programming and collaborations that will result in further investment, grant opportunities and programming to draw locals, increase tourism, attract boaters and more,” the mayor said. “Fulton is on the cusp of a revitalization that hasn’t been seen in decades.”

“Things are moving right along. Yeah, we’re getting there—creating a new history for Fulton. That’s the goal — update and energize things.  There will be a major renovation in our downtown,” Farley said. “It is going to be an exciting time. I hope it will be contagious for additional development. A lot of good things are happening!”