ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s starting to play out like a broken record.

The City of Ithaca has come up short in its efforts to obtain a $10 million grant from Empire State Development, New York State government’s economic development division. The state announced the Southern Tier regional winner, the small city of Hornell in Steuben County, on Tuesday afternoon.

This marks the fourth failed attempt by the city to win the annually awarded $10 million grant from the regional Downtown Redevelopment Initiative fund.  In the first year of the contest in 2016, Elmira was the recipient of the grant, and in 2017, Watkins Glen was the winner. Last year, the funds were awarded to the Village of Owego.

Joining Ithaca on this year’s runner-up list was the Village of Endicott. Hornell was the only other applicant. The City of Binghamton decided to forego applying after failing to get a grant three years in the row, which gives Ithaca the uniquely unpleasant title of being the only community to go 0-for-4 in the Southern Tier.

Given the $900,000 state grant award last week to Tompkins County and its affordable housing efforts, in retrospect it’s as if that was the consolation prize for Ithaca’s years of fruitless efforts in obtaining DRI dollars.

Ithaca’s lack of success in being awarded the DRI grant has been attributed at least in part to the city being a victim of its own success, as an economically prosperous and growing community in a region where many towns and cities have suffered from long-term neglect and disinvestment.

Still, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance and the City of Ithaca relaunch their quest each year to acquire state funds for infrastructure improvements so that they can address long-term maintenance needs and community goals while continuing to make the city an appealing place to work and live.

As reported back in late July, this year’s application to New York State sought to help Ithaca become a “next-generation city” through outlays in infrastructure, housing and amenities. The splashiest features would have an extension of the Commons one block westward, but the $10 million grant would have been used to leverage $212 million in new investment, from parking garage renovations to incubator space for small scale retail, to 735 mostly low-to-moderate income housing units.

Alas, if the city is still interested in pursuing those plans, the funds will have to come from elsewhere, or else apply again in the hopes that Lady Fortune smiles upon the city of gorges in the next round.

Brian Crandall

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