Column from Dan Sullivan
Over the past several years, the Town of Richfield and Village of Richfield Springs have built a coalition of residents, civic groups, and local government officials to form a revitalization plan for the two municipalities. Momentum began to build back in 2015, with the formation of a Joint Town/Village Comprehensive Plan Committee. Working with a professional planning firm, under a grant secured by Otsego Now, a Joint Comprehensive Plan was adopted in late 2018 by both Town and Village. The Town then quickly followed with a Zoning Amendment in 2019. Both the plan and the amendment won New York Planning Federation awards for best in state in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The stage was set for grant seeking.
A 2019 Consolidated Funding Application award was secured by Otsego Now and Andela Products for the development of the long-delayed Richfield Business Park. While COVID has dramatically slowed down progress for this project, it is still moving forward. Meanwhile, several civic groups have forayed into the grant world, with the usual mix of success and frustration. Most notable of these efforts has been the successful CFA award to Richfield Youth Sports—$161, 419 was granted by New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the construction of playing fields on an 18.5-acre property that straddles the Village/Town border, a highly accessible spot for the area youth to gather. There are plans to apply for more funding to construct infrastructure to make the facility a year-round sports destination. This facility will serve large areas of Otsego and southern Herkimer counties.
Private investment is also alive and well in Richfield. Several buildings in the East Main Street and West Main Street historic districts (we have three historic districts) are in the early project stage:
1) 68 Main Street, the oldest house in the Village (1825), is currently housing professional offices. Renovations have begun to transform the house back into residential use, with market-rate rental units.
2) 108 Main Street, the site of a former bank and currently empty, will house the Village offices and Justice Court, with professional office space as well. This effort, linked to #1 above, is set for completion in 2023.
3) 118 Main Street is another former bank building, also empty at present. A mixed-use commercial residential renovation is slated to begin soon, with expected completion in late 2023. All three of these projects will utilize energy-efficient, renewable energy systems for heating and cooling. They are also excellent examples of adaptive re-use, and the re-purposing of historic structures—and great examples of Smart Growth principles in practice!
4) 20 Lake Street is known by locals as “The Beadle Block,” a reference to the builder and original owner. The Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank is the current owner, and it has stabilized the structure with the goal of renovation into market-rate apartments. The Village has submitted a Restore New York grant application for this work.
In addition to these projects, indications abound that point to a revitalization of Richfield. Property transfers have occurred in large numbers, the most notable being the recent sale of Bella Vista, one of the most intact sulphur spas in town. The housing market is exceptionally tight. In the past three to five years, five new businesses have occupied formerly empty space on Main Street. The oldest of these, the Richfield Springs Community Food Cooperative, is in its fifth year of operation.
So, despite the fact that Richfield did not make the cut in the first round of New York Forward grants, there is undeniable movement toward rejuvenation, re-invention and renaissance throughout the town.
Dan Sullivan is supervisor of the Town of Richfield.