Published By David L. Shaw at Finger Lakes Times
March 25, 2023
WATERLOO — What is the best and highest use for the former Willard Psychiatric Center in southern Seneca County?
The Seneca County Industrial Development Agency hopes to get an answer to that question through a study that will be undertaken by MRB Group.
The IDA board voted Thursday to contract with the Rochester firm, one of five companies submitting bids, related to the vacant campus on the east shore of Seneca Lake in the town of Romulus. The study, which will cost the IDA $164,000, will include engineering, architectural, environmental and historical reviews of the site, plus a market analysis and public input sessions that will guide the development of a master plan and corresponding economic impact analysis.
“We’ve been very intentional in the way we’ve chosen to move forward with our partners on the redevelopment of Willard,” IDA Executive Director Sarah Davis said. “The site holds so much significance for the community, historically and otherwise, that we want to make sure we’re engaged with community members and state and local officials in a meaningful way. We believe MRB will help us do that while creating a cohesive vision for the future of Willard and Seneca County.”
“We’re pleased to support the IDA in developing an innovative and compelling re-use program that is market-tested, realistic and achievable,” MRB Group representative and former Geneva City Manager Matt Horn said. “The goal is to create a plan that will entice developers and serve as a catalyst for further investment and positive growth in Seneca County.”
The five proposals received were evaluated by a selection committee made up of representatives from county government, the IDA, and the Willard Task Force. Davis said a factor in the selection of MRB was its partnership with Bero Architecture, Elan Planning, and HRP Associates.
“We look forward to working with MRB’s team to bring his project to fruition and will share updates with the community as we work to get the first public input session scheduled,” Davis said.
In a March 15 letter to IDA board Chairman Steve Brusso, Empire State Development Commissioner Hope Knight emphasized the state’s support of the IDA efforts to engage with the community through this highest and best use study. Knight said the state recognizes “the key role strong local leadership will play in the successful revitalization of communities with shuttered prison sites.”
The public is invited to share their thoughts on the future of Willard by writing to email@example.com or Seneca County IDA, 1 DiPronio Drive, Waterloo, NY 13165.