September 20, 2021

DOS Announces Completion of Accessibility Improvements at Coburn Free Library in Owego as Part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative

DOS Announces Completion of Accessibility Improvements at Coburn Free Library in Owego as Part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative

Project Included New Elevator, Expanded Reading Room and Accessible Restrooms

Downtown Revitalization Initiative Funds Key Catalytic Projects to Revitalize Owego

The New York State Department of State today announced the completion of accessibility improvements at the historic Coburn Free Library as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative in the Village of Owego. All floors of the library are now fully accessible to all members of the community with the installation of a new elevator, expanded community space and a new ADA-compliant restroom.

“Public libraries play a vital role in our downtowns across the state, often serving as gathering spaces and providing critical information and connections for community members,” said Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “Through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the Coburn Free Library will now be able to better serve all residents and visitors to Owego, benefitting the entire region.”

The project received $300,000 from DOS to construct an elevator system providing access to all floors of the library. The construction included building a 1,200-squarefoot annex with an elevator shaft and system, including required electrical connections, necessary modifications to the building, expanded community space, and an accessible restroom on the main level. The project also received a $100,000 New York State Library Construction Grant from the New York State Department of Education.

Prior to this project, the only way to enter the library was up an entire flight of steps and the restroom was on a landing another flight up. The newly accessible building will allow the Coburn Free Library to play a more active role in the Tioga County community and provide access for patrons with disabilities, mobility issues, elderly patrons, young families with strollers, and community organizations needing wheelchair accessible meeting spaces.

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa said, “Our state’s rich network of public libraries is a critical asset that encourages learning and cultural engagement in communities across New York.  All residents should have access to the services and resources offered at their local library. With the funding for these enhancements, the Coburn Free Library’s doors will now be open to everyone in the Owego community.”

State Senator Fred Akshar said, "Access to all that our local libraries have to offer is something every member of our community deserves the opportunity to enjoy, and these improvements will ensure just that.”

Assembly Member Christopher S. Friend PhD said, “In all the interactions that our office has had with the Owego Coburn Free Library we have been very impressed by the many activities happening at this historic library building. The library staff have taken to heart a mission to be a vibrant community resource, and these ADA improvements will help make the facilities available to even more groups and meetings.  We are pleased that the State has made the resources available to provide access to all residents to inspire reading and learning.”

Owego Mayor Mike Baratta said, “The completion of the accessibility project at the Coburn Free Library is a great improvement for the residents of the village. This will allow the library to be accessed by all of our residents that previously could not without the new elevator. We are thankful that NY State has seen the value in our village and was able to help fund this project through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. This is the first of many projects that will make our downtown better than ever.”

Coburn Free Library Executive Director Meredith Gallaro said, “The Coburn Free Library is located in a beautiful, historic building at 275 Main Street in downtown Owego.  The newly completed accessibility annex provides a clever mix of new technology and original 1900’s architecture. The goal was to provide up-to-date accessibility while respecting the charm of the original building.  We are grateful to every supporter of the annex project. This project, long-dreamed-of and long-awaited, is a triumph for our downtown area.  With excitement and gratitude, we are pleased to announce that the magic of this wonderful library is now accessible by all.” 

The Village of Owego, which is a gateway to the Finger Lakes, Ithaca and Watkins Glen regions, was named a Round 3 winner of Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The one square mile focus area includes the historic downtown and a transitional business and residential area on both sides of the Susquehanna River. The compact and walkable area contains amenities that support and enhance downtown living and quality of life, such as municipal parks, theaters, and walking paths that connect to the river. With impending job growth sparked by two major “anchor” projects, the Village is leveraging DRI funds to improve downtown living; improve the economic environment to attract business and skilled labor; incentivize cultural and entertainment activities that will attract residents and visitors of all ages and income levels; and capture and expand upon strong community pride in the downtown’s quality of life.

Accelerating Southern Tier Soaring 

Today's announcement complements “Southern Tier Soaring,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on attracting a talented workforce, growing business and driving innovation. Now, the region is accelerating Southern Tier Soaring with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 10,200 new jobs. More information is available here.

About the Downtown Revitalization Initiative

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative launched in 2016 to accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for investment in all ten regions of the state. The initiative represents an unprecedented and innovative plan-to-act strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation. 

In the first four years of the program, the state committed $400 million to invest in downtowns that are ripe for revitalization and have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, greater economic and housing diversity, and opportunity. The fifth round of the DRI will have an additional $200 million commitment. Participating communities are nominated by the state's 10 Regional Economic Development Councils based on the downtown's potential for transformation. Each community is awarded at least $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects that advance the community's vision for revitalization.  

The initiative is headed by New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. Communities receive support from private sector experts and a team of state agency staff led by the Department of State in close partnership with Empire State Development, and state Homes and Community Renewal.