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3 Cayuga County Villages Awarded DRI Funding


A joint presentation made in October by the mayors of three Cayuga County villages to the state has paid off.

Governor Kathy Hochul was at PPC Broadband, Inc. in East Syracuse Monday morning where she announced that Cayuga, Aurora, and Union Springs have received the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) Award for the Central New York region. Cayuga County is considered by the Regional Economic Development Council as part of Central New York, along with Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego Counties. 

“And I’m really proud to announce that our first $10 million winners is a unique consortium, a group of communities that came together and said that we can be extraordinary by pooling our resources together. So I want to mention that the $10 million is going to not one community, not two communities, but to Aurora, Cayuga and Union Springs will be receiving this year’s $10 million DRI loan,” Hochul said.

DRI funding is aimed at improving the economic recovery of downtowns in New York through an infusion of funding. For example, money can be used for refurbishing buildings, streetscapes, and park upgrades.

The money will go to create a village tourism corridor on the east side of Cayuga Lake on Route 90 where all three villages lie. The corridor is expected to cater to lovers of the outdoors such as fishermen and boaters.

Cayuga Mayor Don Wilson said the funding will be indispensable for increasing tourism to the villages.

“We’re kind of one of those flyover communities but this is going to change that,” Wilson said. “It’s a great thing for all of us. It’s amazing for all of us.”

Union Springs Mayor Rob Thurston told Finger Lakes News Radio, it’s hard to put his excitement for each village into words.

“This just makes it so amazing. It’s hard to come up with the perfect words for this but it’s great to see that it came through and I can’t wait to see what our communities gain from this huge investment,” said Thurston.

Chairwoman of the Cayuga County Legislature, Aileen McNabb Coleman, attended the announcement. She said the three mayors were great ambassadors for their villages and Cayuga County as a whole.

“It’s a product of hard work and great enthusiasm from our three village mayors,” McNabb-Coleman told Finger Lakes News Radio. “They’ve done an outsdtaning job as ambassadors for Cayuga County and for their villages. We’re just certailny excited.”

Mayors Rob Thurston and Don Wilson meet with Cayuga County Associate Planner Kari Terwilliger and Legislature Chairwoman Aileen McNabb-Coleman ahead of the award announcement. (Ed Vivenzio, Finger Lakes News Radio)

This announcement is the culmination of roughly a year of hard work and cooperation between the three villages and the Cayuga County Planning & Economic Development Department. Aurora Mayor Jim Orman said that the collaboration was key to their successful push for the funding.

“The key is teamwork and we formed a team,” Orman said. “I believe in collaboration; I believe in community, and I believe in teamwork, and this is an example of how it can pay off.”

Aurora, Cayuga, and Union Springs join the City of Auburn as Cayuga County DRI Award recipients. Auburn was announced as the Central NY winner in 2018.

In 2023, Moravia received $2.25 million as part of the first round of NY Forward funding, an initiative similar to DRI but with a focus on smaller and rural communities. Union Springs, Aurora, and Cayuga each applied for individual NY Forward awards in addition to the DRI funding but the ultimate goal was the joint DRI award.

Each mayor would like to thank the hard and continued work of their communities who came out and offered their ideas and opinions for their proposal. They would also like to thank Cayuga County Associate Planner Kari Terwilliger, who they said was essential in the three villages receiving the award.

For the DRI application, Terwilliger coordinated the planning efforts between the villages and the county. Having worked for the county for over a decade, she said this announcement made all the hard work worth it.

“I’ve been working with these communities for over a decade and it’s an amazing feeling to know all that hard work, particularly this last year, is going to pay off and it’s going to pay off huge,” said Terwilliger.

Terwilliger added that the next steps will be to await contact from the NYS Department of State and for the villages to form a Local Planning Committee to put together the strategic investment plan for the award. She plans to give updates on the process as it becomes available.


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