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VIEWPOINT: Rome’s development moves forward

By Jacqueline M. Izzo

Date:

There is no question the last year and a half has been a test of our strength and resolve to ever-changing New York State health, business, and lifestyle virus-mitigation measures. Now, we are finally learning to manage the virus with an eye toward returning to a more normal style of work and everyday living. We hold in our hearts all those who lost their battle with COVID and keep in our prayers our fellow citizens who are still recovering from this dreadful illness. 

Throughout this entire ordeal, elected officials were challenged with balancing virus-mitigation directives with making sure our municipalities did not lose ground from an economic development, business, or community perspective. The City of Rome is fortunate because we kept all our current and upcoming business development on a progressive path forward toward commencement and completion with only minimal disruptions due to COVID-related issues. 

The year 2020 saw a record amount of private investment throughout the city, estimated at more than $100 million. The city administration is focused on ubiquitous development touching all corners of Rome. The first multi-use housing project in many years was constructed and opened for residents in June 2020. DePaul Properties completely transformed the former Dewitt Clinton School property into a site now featuring a mix of newly constructed apartments with onsite amenities and townhouses. The complex represents an almost $20 million investment by DePaul and is fully occupied. This year, design and construction begins on the South James Street Overlook, stretching our community’s canal development further west, near Gryziec Field. A $500,000 New York State Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) grant was obtained to begin many years of new improvements laid out for the Erie Canal in south Rome. Hamilton College recently purchased land adjoining Bellamy Harbor Park near the Rome Navigation Center and construction has commenced for a $2 million boathouse facility overlooking the canal. 

The Downtown Revitalization 

Initiative (DRI) is well underway with the completion of Coldpoint’s $5 million manufacturing facility on the city’s west side bringing almost 50 jobs downtown. The Capitol Theatre, as of early July, was busy putting the final touches on its $2.5 million DRI award with a completely renovated interior of the theatre, new roof, new seating, and more. The REACH Center, located on West Dominick Street, has completed a $450,000 buildout of its Erie Boulevard space. THRIVE, a business dedicated to providing co-working space, is completely ready for tenants with the latest and greatest in technology and mobile-office features for those looking for temporary working space. Technergetics purchased the former Gulla Funeral Home located on North Washington Street and completed interior renovations over the winter and is working now on the exterior façade in preparation to move its 40 employees to downtown Rome. C & D Advertising is utilizing a DRI Business Assistance grant to ready its newly purchased property located on West Court Street to move its operations to the downtown corridor. The Balanced Chef recently began full kitchen operations from its new site near the Capitol Theatre and now offers full-service meals to walk-in customers. The city recently began construction of the new Copper City Commons with the intention of improving the West Dominick Street and Gigliotti Avenue streetscapes to be more customer friendly with hardscape improvements, landscaping, and outdoor seating areas for the restaurants along this corridor. The city is now designing the City Hall, City Green, and Liberty/James parking garage DRI projects for renovations later this year and into 2022. 

Construction is targeted to begin later this fall on Copper City Lofts, a 64-unit apartment complex, with an emphasis on housing those with artistic instincts. This project fits well with our burgeoning arts district and the West Dominick Street corridor. 

We are also working with the New York State Department of Transportation on a $2 million transportation-improvement project on Erie Boulevard. Major pedestrian and parking improvements will be undertaken between James Street and Madison Street. A key component of this project is creating a safe pedestrian environment along the vacant storefronts and foster business development and main-street revival of this key downtown area. The project will also leverage the tremendous parking capacity of Freedom Plaza, while improving access to those public parking lots along Erie Boulevard.

The West Rome Industrial Park welcomed a new tenant, OnePull, to the former Coldpoint facility earlier this year. OnePull specializes in supply chain for the alternative-energy industry.

A new grocery option was added to the Rome market in June 2020 when Hannaford Supermarkets opened a new store on Chestnut Street in north Rome. A nearby neighbor, Delta Luxury Apartments, added another 16 market-rate apartments on Merrick Road, completing the total buildout to 64 units fully occupied. Buck Construction has recently announced plans for Phase 5 that will add single-family housing with 64 townhouses through a unique conservation subdivision design. 

Griffiss Business and Technology Park continues to grow and flourish even given the pandemic restrictions (see DiMeo Viewpoint article). 

Rome has a significant need for new single-family housing options, and soon Bonacio Construction will be creating those new units at the Woodhaven site on Floyd Avenue near the Griffiss Park, Mohawk Valley Community College, and Rome Free Academy. The City of Rome, Rome Industrial Development Corporation, Mohawk Valley EDGE, Oneida County Industrial Development Agency, and Bonacio Construction, are working to iron out the details of the sale, infrastructure improvements, and new housing options — with site work slated to begin later this year and construction of new homes starting in 2022. 

We are also keeping a close eye on annual improvements to the city’s infrastructure with a $14.7 million biodigester project underway at our sewage-treatment plant, four bridge/culvert replacements totaling $5.4 million, and city administration is working with landowners to secure about 70 easements to allow Phase 3 ($16.5 million) of the water expansion to continue to North Rome and eventually supply the Town of Verona with city water for its residents. The administration is also securing easements to replace the more than 40-year-old sewage-interceptor line with a new $14 million pipe. 

No single entity performed better during the pandemic in our city than the Rome Health system. Our hospital provided top-notch quality of care to many patients afflicted with COVID and did an outstanding job. Rome Health will embark on an $8 million physician’s office complex on the main hospital campus later this summer as it expands the offerings of our health-care system. It was never more evident how important Rome Health is to our city than during the pandemic. 

The return of quality-of-life events remains a focus of ours as we exit the pandemic. This year, the Honor America Days Pops Concert and fireworks on the lawn of Fort Stanwix takes place on Saturday, July 31. Rome Rotary Club will present CanalFest at Bellamy Harbor Park Aug. 6-8. Planning is also underway for several more events this fall and winter. 

Our city is growing from a residential standpoint with a strong real-estate market and new housing options added to the mix. We are seeing an unprecedented level of private-sector investment and we must continue to prepare our city to accept new business opportunities that will become a reality with new population growth.      

Jacqueline M. Izzo is Rome Mayor. This article is drawn from a guest column she wrote for the July 1 email newsletter of the Genesis Group. Izzo (R, C, I) was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019. She is also owner and president of Upstate New York Professional Services, d/b/a Central NY Transcription Service, providing medical transcription/dictation services to hospitals, physician offices, and urgent care clinics throughout the U.S.