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New York state awards $10M for Watertown's downtown improvements

Payne Horning

Several projects that are underway in Watertown to transform the city's downtown are getting a major boost. The city has won New York's top prize in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) competition for the North Country, and the $10 million that comes with it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement Wednesday at the nearly century old Masonic Temple in the city's downtown, which is currently being restored. Mayor Joe Butler thanked the crowd of city leaders and stakeholders for the work they've put into improving the area. He says that progress is being recognized.

"Today, the momentum is there. This DRI award will help us get where we need to be," Butler said. "It will help us get to that that enviable position throughout the entire North Country."

Watertown lost the competition to to Plattsburgh last year. But the city did get a $50,000 planning grant to put together a blueprint for future redevelopment opportunities. City leaders plan to use the $10 million to execute those plans, like providing space downtown for Jefferson Community College and its students and connecting the city to the Black River.

Credit governorandrewcuomo / Flickr
Howard Zemsky, director of New York's Empire State Development Corporation, compliments the work that Watertown has put into redeveloping its downtown.

But a lot of the funding will be used to finish projects, like making the Masonic Temple a performing arts center and adding new commercial and retail space downtown. Cuomo says that's a large reason why he was presenting the top prize to Watertown on Wednesday.

"You happen to be starting with some really great assets in Watertown that have been underdeveloped for a really long time, but you won because you did the work," Cuomo said. "You earned it. Nobody did anything for you. You did it for yourself."

Rome recently won the award in the Mohawk Valley region, and last year Oswego took the prize in central New York.

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.