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Owego downtown-improvement ideas include tourism-focused projects

By Eric Reinhardt


Photo Credit: Mike Groll and Cuomo flickr

OWEGO, N.Y. — The village of Owego in Tioga County will use a portion of its state grant in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) on projects focused on boosting tourism in the Southern Tier community.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 8 announced a total of 17 projects for Owego as part of the $10 million DRI award. The state named Owego a DRI round 3 winner in August 2018.

The funding that targets downtown Owego will “build upon the community’s assets,” including a “strong and growing” arts and business community; along with access to local and regional tourist attractions,” Cuomo’s office said in a news release. 

Owego developed an investment plan to revitalize its downtown with $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million DRI grant. A local committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders led the effort, supported by a group of private-sector experts and state planners. 

Waterfront accessibility

Owego will use part of the funding to provide access at “key” locations to the Susquehanna River and Owego Creek waterfronts and “create connections” between the Riverwalk and waterfront parks. The effort is aimed at “increasing the use of these resources,” drawing activity to existing and future businesses along Front Street, and providing “attractive amenities” to anticipated upper-story residences overlooking the walkway, Cuomo’s office said. 

The project will include aesthetic improvements, shoreline stabilization, and lighting and signage along the Riverwalk, expansion and improvements at boat launches, and installation of recreation amenities along the Owego Creek walking trails.

Marketing, TAC improvements 

The funding will also target the creation of a dual marketing and branding strategy “promoting Owego’s creative community to attract and support local artists and arts-related businesses,” the release stated. 

The project will develop a branding effort for members of the local arts and business communities in coordination with the Tioga Arts Council (TAC), Historic Owego Marketplace, the Tioga County Chamber of Commerce, the Tioga County Industrial Development Agency, and the Tioga County Tourism Office. 

It’ll also include the hiring of a professional marketing firm to create a marketing strategy, theme, branding logo, and comprehensive signage plan that will also serve as the basis for digital and social marketing, brochures and magnets, and improvements to building image and the public realm. 

The marketing and branding campaign will be supplemented by interior improvements to the TAC facility to create “greater” opportunity for art exhibitions and arts-related programming. Facility upgrades include expanding existing gallery space, improving workshop space, enhancing the quality of Tech Lab space, and implementing environmentally-friendly strategies.

Performing arts center expansion 

Another project will expand the Ti-Ahwaga Performing Arts Center to increase its capacity for productions and programming and create new educational opportunities for Owego residents. 

The expansion will include a 2,200-square-foot addition to the ground level of the southwest side of the existing structure. In addition, the project will also involve a new full basement of the same size, to provide an “easily accessible” workspace for building and storing production materials, and enabling the existing storage space and stage to be leveraged for additional programming, rentals, events, meetings, parties, films, and concerts. 

Museum expansion 

Owego officials also want to expand the Tioga County Historical Society Museum’s 1959 facility. The project will create additional space for exhibits, storage, a lecture hall, and office space, enabling the museum to increase its exhibit and programming capacity. The project is aimed at “drawing more visitors from the community and beyond, and bolstering Owego’s identity as a destination for arts, culture, and history in the Southern Tier,” Cuomo’s office said. 

North Avenue art park

Another project seeks to turn a “highly visible” vacant lot on North Avenue into a creative space anchoring the Owego Creative Community and serving as a recreational resource for residents of all ages. 

The North Avenue Art Park will include an interactive sculpture garden, an amphitheater, and on-site parking in a new public lot accessible from Central Avenue. 

Parking improvements 

Owego will use a portion of the DRI funding to improve downtown parking lots and increase the visibility of available spots. 

Officials would also like to reconfigure employee parking options to “leverage existing underutilized” parking options and facilitate access to DRI businesses and amenities. 

The project will include better signage directing visitors to parking lots with a surplus of spaces and a parking strategy reorganizing the village’s supply.

Mixed-use “gateway” 

Another project will turn an existing building on North Avenue into a mixed-use facility that will serve as a “gateway” to Owego. With this effort, officials hope to “spur further redevelopment of this neglected end of this main artery” leading to the heart of the village. 

The project will include a craft brewery and tap room, food service, nonprofit/artist incubator space, three residential units, and public open space capitalizing on the facility’s location at the threshold of the Finger Lakes beer and wine trail. 

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