During the industrial revolution, the City of Rome, NY became known as the “Copper City” for producing an estimated 10 percent of all the copper in the United States. Located on the Erie Canal between Utica and Syracuse, Rome’s role in manufacturing copper resulted in the creation in 1928 of one of the oldest manufacturing companies in the United States, Revere Copper Products. The City also produced copper wire for cables, an industry that dominated the landscape from the 1920s to today.
As these cable plants closed, led in 1971 by General Cable Corporation which employed 3,000 people at its peak and later Rome Cable Corporation which operated from 1920 to 2003, huge sites contaminated by chemicals stood vacant. After General Cable Corporation was shuttered, the City began working on plans to bring the land and the jobs out of the industrial past, culminating in an application for a Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) grant to further these planning studies by creating one path forward.
Creating Development Opportunities
Rome applied for and was awarded BOA grants in 2005 and 2014. Labeled the “Downtown Rome BOA,” the area covers more than 500 acres of the central city, the Erie Canal waterfront, and several large industrial parcels. An enormous community engagement process focused on remediating a few key strategic sites to get the redevelopment ball rolling. The steering committee and stakeholders strategically divided the BOA area into nine distinct subareas, working on each area separately and adopting each subarea plan as it was completed. By adopting each subarea plan as a stand-alone document, and taking ownership of many of the brownfields in the subarea, the City was able to market the parcels directly to developers in a timelier manner.
To start the development process, two “Requests For Proposals” (RFPs) were issued for two early strategic sites in the downtown revitalization subarea, the former City Hall and Grand Hotel buildings, generating much interest from developers. The planning documents describing future development scenarios created through the BOA process helped market these buildings, leading to successful redevelopment of these key downtown structures.
The Downtown Rome BOA project is a great example of how a BOA grant can beget other funding opportunities, leading to sustained growth over a larger redevelopment area. The additional funding can take many different forms, both private and public, from environmental cleanup costs to infrastructure to housing loans. Here are some examples:
- 1333 East Dominick Street – Listed as a strategic site for redevelopment in the BOA, this project included razing the existing structure and leveling the site for redevelopment. This removal of an environmental hazard improves the neighborhood and gets this site one step closer to redevelopment. This work was funded by: National Grid ($44,000), US EPA ($140,000), CDBG ($78,000) and the City ($40,000).
- East Dominick Street – Enhancing walkability and connectivity throughout the study area and City of Rome was a top priority under BOA. This project creating new sidewalk amenities and green infrastructure from Grey to Green Streets with a $350,000 grant from a NYS DOT Transportation Alternatives Grant.
- The City’s Waterfront Village subarea featured the former Dewitt Clinton School. Built in 1924 and closed in 2001, the 48,000 square foot building was demolished to create a new affordable living housing development, the DeWitt Clinton Apartments at 423 Ann Street, slated to open in the summer of 2020. The BOA plan provided the foundation for requests for additional funding and in 2018 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the state would provide $10.2 million in financing for the 80 affordable apartments through the NYS Homes & Community Renewal's Unified Funding Application.
- 109 Canal Street (former Rome-Turney building) – Listed as a strategic site for redevelopment in the BOA, this is a former manufacturing site that is to be demolished and cleaned up for a potential mixed-use development. The cleanup of the property is helped by a $500,000 RESTORE NY grant and a $200,000 USEPA Cleanup grant.
- Cold Point Corporation, a company relocating to the Erie Boulevard BOA encompassing part of the Rome Cable Complex 3, was awarded $900,000 in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding after being identified as a strategic project by local leaders. This site was previously identified as a strategic site during planning for the Erie Boulevard Brownfield Opportunity Area in 2008. The public threw their support towards the demolition and remediation of Complex 3, and momentum grew to provide expansion opportunities for local manufacturers and to attract new investment. The Cold Point Corporation will help fulfill a vision that included a local manufacturer to attract outside investment, create new value, and expand employment opportunities in the urban center. Prior planning and remediation of the area made this property more attractive for the quick-moving DRI investment program.
- American Alloy Steel Expansions - Located within the Employment District subarea and the Waterfront form-based zoning district, this project was a privately-funded expansion of an existing clean manufacturing facility. Building additions of around 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space was constructed as business operations have expanded.
The City of Rome posits that as of 2013, they were able to leverage each dollar of BOA funding for an additional $77 of private and public investment.