DRI Blog Overview

Downtown Disrupted

How Three NYS Cities Are Being Transformed by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative

New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative—the DRI—has a vision. It’s one that involves reimagining downtowns, many with historic buildings and eye-catching landscapes, to accommodate the desires of 21st century residents to walk or cycle to jobs, stores and restaurants, to live and work near city centers and to reconnect with outdoor landscapes and waterfronts. To that end, New York cities have been hard at work, sketching and designing their future selves. 

An abandoned theater as a working brewery. Rebirth, rather than rubble, for an old building.  An obscured river view revealed.  

With the first round of the DRI, launched in 2016, $10 million went to selected cities in each of the state’s 10 economic development regions with the most successful visions of remaking their urban centers into vibrant places to work, play and grow. A second round of winning DRI city announcements is underway. 

This snapshot of three first-round winners offers highlights of some transformative projects:    


Oswego (Central New York)


Water is a winner for this city, located at the mouth of the Oswego River and bordering Lake Ontario’s southeastern shore, and integral to winning DRI plans that involve making the most of its waterfont, including:

  • From Brownfield to Lakefront: Harbor View Square’s mixed-use development will bring back to life blocks connecting downtown to Lake Ontario, with housing, retail and commercial space.
  • Saving the Cahill Building: The city’s oldest commercial building, on the National Register of Historic Places, was headed for the wrecking ball; it will now be renovated for homes and riverfront dining.
  • An Indoor, Waterfront Water Park:  A new Lake Ontario Water Park will be a four-season family destination and linked to an existing hotel and conference center on the Oswego River.


Geneva (Finger Lakes)


Innovation in clean energy, imaginative reuse of historic buildings and a marina expansion are among the winning projects for this city along the Seneca Lake shoreline, all designed to re-invigorate the city’s center:

  • A Public Downtown Marina: Jet skis and 35-foot boats alike will have access to a 100-slip  marina, which will increase boat traffic, and bring those boaters to Geneva’s downtown.  
  • Lake Tunnel Solar Village: This green infill residential development will increase downtown visitor traffic while serving as a real-time demonstration of the Geneva-made LifeCube – providing the development’s light and heat through solar electric and heat pump technology.
  • From Vacant Theater to Micro-Brewery:  The empty building, dating to 1915, will become home to Twisted Rail’s main brewery, with a 9,000-square-foot tasting room and restaurant.


Elmira (Southern Tier)

Aerial shot of Elmira,NY

The Chemung River runs through this former summer home of author Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens) and winning DRI plans call for better access to the city’s waterfront and downtown:

  • A Path Reopened: More than six years after its closure to vehicles, the span next to Mark Twain Riverfront Park will be renovated and reopened as the Lake Street Pedestrian Bridge over the Chemung River, and will reconnect residents to downtown.
  • Introducing Clemens Square: An underused public space at the heart of downtown will become a walkable, inviting area that will also act as a connector to Elmira’s arena, theater complex and many of the city’s renovated historic buildings.
  • A Riverfront Boardwalk: A new elevated boardwalk, within the Mark Twain Riverfront Park, will allow views of the Chemung River and connect to the heart of downtown.