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Mt. Kisco Among Communities Selected for Downtown Improvement Grant

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County and local officials gathered in White Plains last week to announce the first round of recipients for Westchester’s new Downtown Improvement Grant program.

Mount Kisco was one of five Westchester municipalities last week that received a $250,000 county grant that will provide technical assistance and strategic support to help make improvements to its downtown.

County Executive George Latimer announced last Thursday that the town of Bedford and Pelham and the villages of Dobbs Ferry and Port Chester will join Mount Kisco in receiving the money from the first-ever Downtown Improvement Grant (DIG) Pilot Program. The communities will receive comprehensive market analysis, a custom-designed strategic economic growth plan, six months of hands-on technical support and assistance and up to $250,000 support for implementation efforts.

The county has engaged the New Jersey-based business consulting firm JGSC Group to provide the services, an outfit that has extensive experience in working with local governments in helping to revitalize downtowns.

“This pilot program will help provide guidance and funding to help support the business infrastructure and spark vibrancy in the entire community,” said Shari Rosen Ascher, director of programs for small businesses for Westchester County. “The collaboration between the county, the local municipal governments, the local chambers of commerce and downtown revitalization experts is not only unprecedented in Westchester, it is filled with positive possibilities.”

The ultimate goal is to stimulate economic growth by helping the communities with analysis, strategic planning and implementation of any proposed improvements, Ascher said.

Mount Kisco Mayor Gina Picinich said that the roughly three-square-mile village is a hub of economic activity in northern Westchester, with its blend of small independently-owned businesses and national brands. However, rising costs and changes in the retail environment has made it increasingly difficult for many businesses.

Because of those challenges, Picinich said the village is greatly appreciative of having secured the grant to help the municipality move forward.

“Having access to the consulting analysis and expertise and funding for implementation, this will enable us to focus on further strengthening our already strong local economy and creating this environment for everybody to thrive,” Picinich said.

Earlier this year, the county invited communities to submit applications. Eligible communities must not receive Community Development Block Grant money or have received a state Downtown Revitalization Initiative in the past. The initial work will begin this summer and continue through the end of the year.

Originally, only four communities were going to be provided the grants, but the county saw additional opportunities in many communities across Westchester and increased the number of recipients to five, said Joan McDonald, the county’s director of operations.

Joe Getz, a principal at the JGSC Group, said the partners in the firm and its other experts reviewed the applications and sought to determine which communities might have the best chance at success. The next steps will be to find out what the leaders and stakeholders in the five areas would like to see and provide a plan in hopes of achieving success, he said.

“If we can bring new stores, if we can put people on the street, if we can reduce the number of vacancies, these are all good steps in economic development,” Getz said.

Bedford Councilwoman Bobbi Bitker said the town intends to focus on helping the hamlet of Bedford Hills with the grant. She called it a win for the town but also for the residents who will benefit should the revitalization efforts materialize.

“We were so thrilled, because like Joe said, they saw us as having a great chance for success and that’s really why we’re here and do what we do, and we really want success for our town and the people in our town,” Bitker said.

Latimer said the public-private partnership aspect of the grant makes it different than what the county has done in the past. The hope is that it will also spur additional investment, he said.

“(These are) things to help create some additional energy and drive in downtowns that already show some of that drive and show some of that potential and can grow to a greater level,” Latimer said.








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