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Oswego residents offer feedback for downtown revitalization project

Payne Horning
Oswego resident Chena Tucker presents her vision for downtown Oswego's future at a public input meeting.

Oswego residents had their first chance to provide input on the city's downtown revitalization project last week. Dozens of residents and community leaders came out to the city's first public meeting last week to help shape the direction of the project.

Inside the McCrobie Civic Center, residents leaned across long folding tables, identifying their favorite and least favorite parts of Oswego's downtown on large printed maps. Many of them have never met, but they were united in their passion for Oswego and the unique chance it has to leap forward. It was one of 10 cities in New York to get a $10 million grant from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Downtown Revitalization Initiative competition. 

"This is an extraordinary opportunity -- it’s probably a once in a lifetime opportunity -- and you have to spend the $10 million smart," said Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow. 

Credit Payne Horning / WRVO News
Oswego residents collaborate on creating a wish list for the Port City's downtown area. The city is getting $10 million from New York State to overhaul their downtown so it creates a more vibrant atmosphere.

The feedback from residents oscillated between developing a consistent look for downtown and adding major amenities to the city. Some expressed the desire for consistent facade designs and signs in Oswego,  and a more welcoming gateway at the entryways to the city. Others wanted to tackle bigger projects, like adding parks, more dining and retail stores and a skating rink. But most, like Catharine Early, said the key is building on the existing assets like the waterfront and Fort Ontario.

"If you do those things and you pay attention to those things and also preserve the sense of authenticity and green space, that some of these smaller things like better shops and more restaurants and bike lanes – they will come with that flow," Early said. "The overriding concern of our group was that we do not lose the local flavor."

New resident Cassandra Clark agreed with that sentiment, but said the city has to find a way to connect the downtown area to the city landmarks, like Fort Ontario.

"The connection really needs to be made between the local residents and also the historic sites and improve that kind of tourism," Clark said. "There's been talks of maybe putting in a walkway from the hotels on the east side to the Fort." 

In the city's original application for the funding, officials identified six anchor projects that would add new residential and commercial properties in the downtown area. But Barlow says those are subject to change with the public's input.

"We are going to take the feedback we get tonight and immediately turn around and start implementing that feedback from tonight’s meeting into that plant that we will present and the local planning committee will vote on early next year," Barlow said. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.