ITHACA, N.Y. — Three local projects have been submitted to New York State’s economic development agency for possible state grant dollars, according to documents uploaded to a state website.

The document was produced by the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council (STREDC), one of the 10 regional councils scattered throughout the state. Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state’s regional economic development initiative solicits applications for new economic projects and requests “progress reports” on already-funded projects; each year, hundreds of millions of dollars are awarded. The initiative has drawn both praise for enhancing economic growth and forcing regions to come up with plans to create stronger economies, and criticism for being gimmicky and accused government overreach by picking “picking winners and losers.” Funding runs the gamut from job creation to public infrastructure and arts and cultural projects.

In 2016, Tompkins County received about $3.2 million in grant funds through the program, and last year about $5 million was awarded. Higher-profile recipients include the Tompkins Center for History and Culture, Press Bay Alley’s expansion, the Cornell CEPSI+ business incubator at Ward Hall and the new Cargill salt mine shaft in Lansing. The progress report included in the 2018 application notes that most of the projects are progressing, though the Cargill grant contract has “yet to be executed”.

Twenty nine priority projects were identified in the Southern Tier’s application; these are proposals that the regional committee of business, government and non-profit leaders selects as being the most important considerations for state dollars. Of the 29, three are located in Tompkins County.

The first on the list of local submissions is the expansion of a local yogurt-making and dairy processing facility. The Indian Milk & Honey Company opened in Freeville in 2014, and though their name might not sound familiar, its main product may ring some bells. “That Indian Drink”, a probiotic yogurt smoothie, retails nationwide. The company wants to expand its 12,500 square-foot facility and add packaging lines for yogurt, cottage cheese and custard, as well as upgraded production equipment and quality control systems. The firm is seeking $320,000 in state grants toward their $1.6 million expansion, which would create ten new jobs.

Image property of the Ithaca Community Childcare Center.

Second is the Ithaca Community Childcare Center (IC3), which is seeking state funds to help support the expansion of their school age program.

IC3 is a non-profit pre-school childcare center located on Warren Road in the town of Ithaca, providing childcare services and educational programs for over 250 children across the area, from eight weeks to 10 years old. The childcare center is aiming to grow its facility to provide after-school and partial-day toddler and pre-K programs, which would involve a renovation and expansion with four new classrooms added to the center. The new programming would serve 60 children during the school week, 60 in summer camp programs, and partial day-care for 20 to 24 toddlers and 30 to 36 pre-schoolers.

To help pay for this $3,959,000 project, IC3 is seeking $790,000 in state assistance, specifically to cover some of the construction and expansion costs. Cash equity, construction loan and private fundraising would cover the rest of the bill. In return for state support, not only does the area get an expansion of services for those in need of child care options, but five jobs would be created.

Lastly is a project already familiar to Voice readers – City Harbor. At last report, the project was undergoing redesigns to accommodate the city’s affordable housing request that was included in a revised CIITAP tax abatement program, which expanded the waterfront boundaries to include the northern part of the inlet and the project site. The plan incorporates over one hundred for-sale and housing units, a waterfront restaurant, a marina and medical office space for Guthrie Clinic on the former Johnson Boatyard at 101 Pier Road. The project is also closely tied to GreenStar Co-Op’s plan for its new flagship a couple blocks away the warehouse they will be renovating at 770 Cascadilla Street is owned by Guthrie, and GreenStar’s project could only move forward if Guthrie and City Harbor’s plans were moving forward.

According to the grant application, the development of City Harbor is being split into multiple phases. Phase 1a will focus on building the seawall and other site plan improvements, and 1b will involve the (already approved) subdivision of the parcel Guthrie will use for their new 60,000 square-foot office building, for which they’re targeting a construction start sometime this fall. Phase 2 will see construction of “The Point” Building, which will house a waterfront restaurant with four floors of residential units above.
In the $6,775,092 price tag for the initial phase, the developers of City Harbor, a group of local and regional builders and real estate professionals, are hoping to reel in a state grant to the very precise tune of $1,355,018. The rest would be covered by cash equity and private investors. The money would potentially be the lubrication to help get the development wheels of later phases into high gear; while it’s the project asking for the largest grant, the project would result in tens of millions in new investment into the city, and between Greenstar, Guthrie and the restaurant, at least 120 new jobs would be created.
The typical time frame for the Regional Economic Development Council awards suggests that official notice of any grant dollars will be posted after a big ceremony in Albany in early December. Generally, priority projects stand a better chance of full funding than regular applications, and they may only be only partially funded. Cargill received $2 million of the $5 million requested in 2016, and last year Cornell was awarded $1.5 million of the $2 million it sought for its CEPSI+ business incubator.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.