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City Called ‘Untapped Resource’

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Ogdensburg’s waterfront redevelopment consultant is certain he is guiding the city through a golden opportunity.

Connecticut-based Vita Nuova President Michael B. Taylor is impressed.

“I see Ogdensburg and the waterfront as an untapped resource,” he said. “The fact that the waterfront sites are located in a municipality which offers medical care, infrastructure, libraries, proximity to Canada and retail facilities sets it apart from conventional lakeside communities like Lake Placid.”

Mr. Taylor was in the city for three days last month to meet with officials representing the city, businesses and civic organizations. He will be back on May 2 for back-to-back public meetings at the Dobisky Visitors Center, 100 Riverside Ave. A community open house from 3 to 5 p.m. will be followed by a community workshop from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

He believes there are plenty of reasons to look forward to those meetings and beyond.

“We were amazed at the potential once you considered the Canadian side as well as the U.S. side,” Mr. Taylor said. “In speaking with the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, they say the traffic from Canada has increased by 100,000 cars this past year. Of course, most are for short trips at this point. We are working to encourage longer stays and potentially investment.”

That’s not all.

“Secondly, we found no community with as much strategic waterfront available for redevelopment in the region,” Mr. Taylor said. “This was confirmed by a number of stakeholders and site visits. We looked at these sites in Ogdensburg and interviewed owners who all seem willing to help put the sites back into use.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of State-directed Brownfields Opportunity Area study that Vita Nuova is directing focuses on a 330-acre section of St. Lawrence River shoreline between Park Street to the east and the former Diamond International site, Mansion Avenue, to the west. There is interest in development, Mr. Taylor said, but with much work to do in to make it happen.

“With regard to the market, there are two main challenges,” he said. “The demand for uses on the waterfront is currently small. We have to be careful about those uses because we are planning for the next 50 years in most cases. With regard to demand, we need to celebrate the small steps as they will ultimately create the critical mass to encourage larger developments. We are trying to help facilitate some of these. With regard to ultimate uses, the city wants to attract uses and users that will be quality developments that are enduring. That will take time and careful consideration.”

Then the grunt work of application begins.

“There are a number of physical challenges we are trying to address through the BOA Step 2 process,” Mr. Taylor said. “There are environmental, local regulatory, and infrastructure obstacles that need to be addressed in order to promote development. We are trying to clearly identify them, their costs, and paths to their successful redevelopment. We also need to strengthen the culture presents on the waterfront to create more reasons to come to the waterfront as a part of this process. We hope to encourage increased voluntary actions help accomplish this.”

And the financing to help make it happen is available.

“Ogdensburg is poised to receive both public and private investment,” Mr. Taylor said. “This will require consistent decision-making and actions by Ogdensburg’s leaders-both public and private. Public officials, and potential developers need to see that Ogdensburg’s time has come and now is the time to help invest in its future. Funds are available but very competitive, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The strategy is to position Ogdensburg to get regional, state and federal dollars.”

Developers, according to Mr. Taylor said, “are interested in opportunities and there is plenty of cash out there looking for the right investment opportunities.”

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