SPECIAL REPORT: Elmira's Comeback
ELMIRA, N.Y.(WENY)-- Elmira, New York has a rough economic past. The flood of 1972, along with changing shopping trends changed the landscape of downtown. But now, Elmira is determined to not let the past dictate its future, and is writing its own next chapter.
"After the flood, there was a period there that we didn't do so well and now that we actually see buildings being built, we see businesses coming back the perception and the people is that Elmira is going through a resurgence, Elmira's coming back," says Dan Mandell, Mayor of the City of Elmira.
In 2017, Elmira was chosen as the winner of New York's Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, pumping $10 Million dollars into city projects. The money is being used to help develop Elmira's downtown in key areas of the city. These projects, along with local developers making their investments into housing and commercial development, is bringing a new energy into the city.
"To me, the future is exciting in that we can't go back to having major retailers, retails change and evolved. But in that, we are changing and moving into an era when entrepreneurism is going to become very largely to play. Small business experiences and not things," Seth J. Adams, Managing Member of Warner's Way Properties Services tells WENY.
Some of those businesses have called Elmira home for years, while others are still setting in. Sara Caldwell is an entrepreneur who has chosen Elmira to launch one of her businesses, Downtown Grind.
"Being an entrepreneur in this area, I see a lot of opportunities, I see a lot of potentials. Especially with the increase in affordable housing and just regular housing here in the downtown area. You know, the empty store fronts I don't think will be empty for long," Sara Caldwell, Owner of Downtown Grind.
As the city continues to move forward, the people behind the momentum don't want to forget Elmira's past.
"The touchstones of our lives is history. It's knowing what happened here in the past, it gives us a sense of connection to what was here before and also basically gives us the imagination to move forward and what it can be in the future," Adams tells WENY News.
"You know Elmira was such a bustling city pre 1970s that it's really nice to see it coming back into life you know, blossoming if you will. The city has the bones to be an amazing, busy retail transportation, food and beverage, art, technology hub. All of those things can exist here," says Caldwell.
All of those things are starting to exist here again, between new shops popping up, LECOM's new medical school, and Elmira's community events like Alive After Five, Wisner Market and the Street Painting Festival, the city a is seeing a resurgence.
"Take a drive around the city, take a look at what's going on, look at unemployment numbers, they're down 3.7%. People are working, there's a lot going on in the city and it's looking a lot better, so Elmira is on it's way back," Madnell tells WENY News.
The best thing to do is keep an eye on the city and or visit it for yourself.