Downtown Revitalization projects highlight historic mixed-use core in Penn Yan

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Lt.Gov. Kathy Hochul looked at some of the buildings in downtown Penn Yan where projects will be funded through the DRI program.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul enjoyed a stroll down Main Street Penn Yan Aug. 8 to see with her own eyes the places where 15 projects will transform the village using $10 million in funding through the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative. "I'm here to make your dreams come true," she told the crowd that gathered in anticipation at the historic Belknap building. 

She announced, on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's behalf, the strategic investments in Penn Yan to highlight its historic mixed-use core, the Lake Street commercial corridor, a robust craft food and beverage industry, and the Keuka Marsh and Outlet in the heart of the Finger Lakes region.

The specific projects to be funded through the DRI include:

Revive the Sampson Theater as a Cultural Anchor ($1 million): Stabilize and expand the Sampson Theater for year-round use as a cultural destination to draw larger audiences to downtown on weeknights and weekends. The project includes interior renovations, exterior rehabilitation, and sprinkler system updates to the 1910 theater.

Transform Historic Knapp Hotel into Mixed-use Gateway ($1.5 million): Convert the vacant historic Knapp Hotel into a mixed-used anchor and gateway to downtown, creating a vibrant mix of commercial spaces and 11 residential units and bringing new jobs and residents to Main Street. The project will include historic restoration of facades and cupola; demolition of a dilapidated addition; the installation of a new roof, HVAC, lighting, electrical and plumbing systems, and energy-code-level insulation; installation of historically appropriate windows; and addition of an elevator and rear stair tower.

Repurpose Struble's Arcade as Mixed-Use Development ($1.4 million): Restore a historic three-story masonry structure as a mixed-use development with six commercial spaces and seven residential units, creating new jobs and drawing new residents to downtown Penn Yan and rendering the iconic property attractive once more. The project will include an indoor year-round gathering space and anchor tenants providing culinary, exercise, and retail amenities.

Expand Penn Yan's Parks and Trails Network ($1.3 million): Enhance the Indian Pines Park as a waterfront destination drawing residents and visitors to the lake. Install trail extensions along the Keuka Outlet Trail to connect downtown Penn Yan to lakefront attractions. The improvements would create a cultural event venue, waterfront seating, public boat docks near downtown businesses, updated playground facilities, overlooks with interpretive signage, and greater connectivity between the village's natural and commercial assets.

Install Streetscape Improvements Facilitating Downtown Circulation ($1.5 million): Undertake streetscape enhancements along Water and Wagener Streets to improve walkability, provide additional on-street parking, ensure historically appropriate street lighting, and, ultimately, extend Main Street's character and charm along these corridors for an improved pedestrian experience. Additionally, the project will include enhancements to the existing Wagener Street parking lot.

Enhance the Pedestrian Experience of Maiden Lane and Main Street ($393,000): Redevelop and repurpose part of Maiden Lane as a pedestrian promenade offering outdoor event space and increased walkability. Install streetscape improvements on Main Street to improve the public's experience of downtown Penn Yan. Examples of streetscape improvements include overhead decorative string lighting, resurfaced pavements, planters, and public art installations.

Transform Vacant Lot into Water Street Townhomes: Transform a vacant lot at 131-147 Water Street and 120 Wagener St. into 18 townhome condominiums with on-site parking and facades incorporating historic design elements to create additional housing options for both seniors and young professionals.

Rehabilitate the Historic Belknap for Downtown Living and Working Opportunities ($329,000): Convert the vacant Belknap building into three residential units and one commercial space to provide new opportunities for downtown housing and employment that serve as catalysts for future development and bring vitality to the core of Penn Yan. The project is expected to attract 12 new jobs and six new residential tenants to a vital Main Street block and includes facade restoration and interior renovations.

Add a Brewery and Outdoor Event Space to the Historic Laurentide Inn ($260,000): Renovate the 1820 Laurentide Inn to accommodate drinking, dining, and event venues that cater to and cultivate visitor interest while celebrating the history and culture of Penn Yan. The project will include repurposing the existing carriage house and stables into a micro-brewery and tasting room, creating a first-floor lounge, enhancing the site to accommodate outdoor events, and transforming the driveway into a pedestrian walkway for inn visitors and brewery guests.

Expand the Reach and Capacity of a Children's Services Organization ($521,000): Install an elevator and implement interior renovations at Milly's Pantry, a not-for-profit serving Yates County's children, enabling the organization to expand its services, programming, and accessibility. Modifications to an existing staircase will provide safe egress from each floor.

Convert Vacant Office Space into Upper-Story Apartments at 126 Main St. ($200,000): Convert vacant second floor office space at 126 Main Street into three rental apartments, contributing to Penn Yan's downtown housing stock and tourist lodging options. The renovation will include the demolition of non-load bearing walls; installation of new insulation, dry wall, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and appliances; and implementation ofthermal window replacements.

Enhance Birkett Landing's Commercial Capacity ($180,000: Install amenities and infrastructure improvements to Birkett Landing, a four-story, mixed-use property including apartments, a wine bar, and 4,500 square feet of undeveloped space, to increase the facility's appeal to potential patrons and draw commercial activity to the DRI area. The project will include finishing the interior of ground-floor commercial space, creating an outdoor patio for restaurant use, constructing restrooms, adding infrastructure improvements, and installing a bar.

Transform an Empty Storefront into a Farm-to-Table Restaurant and Bar ($200,000): Transform an empty storefront on Elm Street into a farm-to-table restaurant and cocktail bar, Little Elm, to bolster the region's wine and lake tourism industry and support local farmers and beverage manufacturers. The project will include general construction; mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection work; and furniture, fixtures, and equipment for restaurant use.

Establish a Building Improvement Fund ($600,000): Establish a building improvement fund supporting interior and exterior enhancements to buildings within the DRI area to improve downtown aesthetics, attract and retain small businesses, preserve historic structures, and, ultimately, create an improved quality of life and visitor experience in Penn Yan.

Transform Underutilized Space into a Village Bakery ($63,000): Attract a successful regional bakery by transforming the underutilized space at 132-138 Water Street. The Village Bakery will use local grains to produce artisan breads for restaurants and the general public, contribute to the cluster of food-related businesses downtown, and integrate agritourism into Penn Yan's appeal. Improvements include finishing the space's interior walls and ceilings, installing plumbing and HVAC infrastructure, and constructing an ADA accessible bathroom.

Penn Yan developed a Strategic Investment Plan to revitalize its downtown with $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million DRI grant. A Local Planning Committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders led the effort, supported by a team of private-sector experts and state planners. The Strategic Investment Plan for Penn Yan examined local assets and opportunities and identified economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community's vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation.

"As part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Penn Yan will be able to grow their economy and elevate the quality of life for residents," Gov. Cuomo said. "The tourism generated through their burgeoning craft food and beverage industry, local arts scene, and the beautiful Keuka Lake speaks to its incredible potential for greater economic opportunity."

"The Village of Penn Yan has a charming downtown that is primed for growth thanks to strategic investment," Hochul said. "The projects funded as part of our Downtown Revitalization Initiative will build upon Penn Yan's strengths as a centerpiece of the region's craft food and beverage industry, expand the availability of housing, and improve quality of life to create a brighter economic future for the Finger Lakes."

Penn Yan was named a DRI Round three winner in Oct.2018. The Village of Penn Yan, a hub of business and recreational activity surrounded by bucolic farmland, leads the Finger Lakes Region in manufacturing job growth. Rich in history, the Village's downtown is comprised of lovely tree-lined streets, intact historic buildings, and beautiful landscaping. While so many other main streets have lost out to strip mall developments and big box retailers, Penn Yan's downtown is still the center of commerce for residents and visitors alike. However, a number of barriers, including the impact of recent extreme floods and lack of housing options, are suppressing Penn Yan's full potential for leveraging private investment and increasing economic opportunity for all. The DRI planning effort in Penn Yan will focus on overcoming these barriers and promoting sustained, year-round economic growth by concentrating on four areas: leveraging the abundant natural assets, capitalizing on the growing craft food and beverage industry, using the local art scene as an economic engine, and capturing the intellectual capital that lives and vacations in the Village.

Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center said, "Penn Yan's revitalization is a testament to the commitment of Governor Cuomo to revitalize and enrich Upstate New York. This burgeoning region is only moving forward and this investment and the community that ardently supported it will bring unprecedented growth to the Finger Lakes region."

Penn Yan Mayor Leigh MacKerchar said, "Governor Cuomo's dedication to the Upstate New York economy and the revitalization of our downtowns is unparalleled. This investment in Penn Yan will further transform our great village and I am looking forward to seeing the growth we experience."

New York Sen. Thomas F. O'Mara said, "These exciting developments for Penn Yan and the Finger Lakes will undoubtedly bring tremendous growth to this region. As we continue to diversify our investments, we grow our economy and boost tourism."

New York Assembly member Philip A. Palmesano said, "This is an incredible opportunity for Yates County, for Penn Yan, and the Finger Lakes region. This region is rich in history and culture, and I thank Governor Cuomo for his dedication to revitalizing the Upstate New York economy."