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Despite missing out on economic development funds, Ogdensburg wins housing grant

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OGDENSBURG — In 2013, Ogdensburg will be back in the housing rehabilitation business.

The Housing Trust Fund Corp., a subsidiary of New York state Homes and Community Renewal, announced Friday that the city would receive a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant.

The city applied for the grant to rehabilitate 12 owner-occupied houses around a stretch of Ford Street east of the city center.

“We have seen a lot of improvement along Ford Street over the past few years thanks to some community efforts,” said City Manager John M. Pinkerton. “We hope to build on that momentum.”

The average cost of a rehabilitation will be $23,712, and the maximum amount of assistance available is $30,000.

The Development Authority of the North Country, which prepared the application, will also administer the grant, strengthening a new city partnership.

“It is exciting because DANC does a lot of work throughout the area and they will be a strong partner,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “It is a new beginning for the city.”

A Community Development Block Grant differs from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, interim City Planner Andrea L. Smith said.

“The NSP was designed specifically for dense urban areas, but the CDBG is more flexible,” she said. “The NSP program used only municipally owned homes, but the CDBG is for owner-occupied homes.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a $90.2 million award to the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. Of the 82 projects funded through the council, none occur in Ogdensburg. Mr. Pinkerton said the city chose to focus on housing rehabilitation this year.

“That was where we were putting our eggs,” he said. “We wanted to focus on the city’s housing needs.”

The city did apply for some of the state economic development funds for new gateway signage at Routes 37 and 68, but that project was not listed for an award.

Both Ms. Smith and Mr. Pinkerton said future economic development in Ogdensburg will come from new housing and tourism opportunities along the St. Lawrence and Oswegatchie Rivers.

“There are parcels ready for development,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “We want to use a smaller parcel as a pilot project, look at how we get it in private hands and show what opportunties exist here for developers.”

Mr. Pinkerton said Ogdensburg should be using its status as a city with a good school, hospital and transportation system, as well as its natural resources, to its advantage.

One step Mr. Pinkerton often mentions is bringing the city’s initatives in line with the efforts of public agencies in the area, like the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority.

“Commercial and industrial development is being spearheaded by the OBPA, and we meet with them every three weeks or so,” he said. “The idea is to meld both of our marketing programs together so we are in sync. They are looking at waterfront opportunities, we are also looking at waterfront opportunities.”

Though some money was left in the 2012 budget to hire an economic development coordinator for Ogdensburg, no hire was made. With a very tight 2013 budget, Mr. Pinkerton said he will direct the city’s economic development efforts.

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