After eight years of waiting, the residents of Brewerton are finally seeing progress on the revitalization of the hamlet.
Town and state officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 2 to commemorate the completion of Phase I of the Brewerton Revitalization Project, which includes picnic tables, new streetlights, a 400-foot brick walkway and benches along the riverfront. The improvements cost a total of $102,400, which was made possible through matching grants to the town of Cicero, in-kind services from local businesses and town departments and donations from Brewerton residents.
“It’s been such a long time,” said Cicero Supervisor Jessica Zambrano. “I think it’s a real economic boost, especially for the summertime with all the river traffic. Now that I live on the lake, I see the value it brings. It’s a wonderful project. It’s good for the business owners. It’s good for economic development.”
The project started in 2006 under then-Supervisor Chet Dudzinski. The town has received numerous grants for the proposal, including an initial $125,000 development grant and an $800,000 grant from Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office. Town and state officials hope the redevelopment will make the riverfront hamlet a tourist attraction.
So what took so long to complete the initial phase? According to former Supervisor Jim Corl, who is now the Onondaga County legislator for the third district, it was a lot of red tape.
“From ’07 into ’08 and ’09, there was a great deal of activity. There were a number of community meetings,” Corl said. “I remember a number of residents that are here today brainstorming ideas about what they’d like to see, what was the vision. In 2012, it was a time to take a step back and say, where are we in this? Then began a flurry of activity. We really pushed forward from January of 2012 to October. We had to get permission from Canal Corp., from the state, from two Indian nations, just to test and dig these test pits. The approval process was enormous.”
The town finally gained all necessary approvals in early 2013. That was when construction began.
‘We could take the efforts everybody has put forth and actually have something to show for it,” Corl said. “This is what the community’s been waiting for. It’s very exciting.”
Now the town will move forward with Phase II of the project, which will include expansion of the walkway, access to the walkway, ramps, new lights and “whatever else we can squeeze out of the available money that we have,” according to Zambrano. The town board approved spending of $137,500, the town’s portion of a $275,000 matching grant, at its June 11 meeting to cover the improvements.
“We’re looking for in-kind services to help the town’s 50 percent match,” Zambrano said. “We hope to complete that this year.”
The town also plans to purchase 5451 and 5459 Bennett St., which back up to the riverfront. They’ll likely be demolished to make room for improvements.
Members of the Brewerton Revitalization Committee, which is chaired by Helen Carroll, were pleased to see the project finally coming to fruition.
“It is a first step, and we all know that there are grants and additional things that can be done,” said committee member Dick Flaherty. “From here we hope to continue moving down the river and up through the hamlet of Brewerton and making it into a place that we can all be proud of and enjoy.”
Flaherty pointed out that the improvements would benefit residents for years to come.
“We’re not looking at just the people that are here today,” he said. “We’re looking at the future. This is what we want to do, create a future for everybody in our town. This isn’t just a property for the hamlet. This is for the whole town.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.