Main Street: Waterloo, New York

Planning Excellence

The Village of Waterloo, New York, is deeply connected to its past while moving confidently into its future. The village is achieving this through its first ever comprehensive plan, which was created with Main Street as the central focus. The plan for Main Street is a community effort that will honor Waterloo's rich history as the officially recognized birthplace of Memorial Day, while also positioning it as a community poised for progress.

With their comprehensive plan, residents in this centuries-old Upstate New York community hope to promote walkability, livability, and sustainability by addressing issues like downtown development and rehabilitation, the needs of senior citizens, and environmental concerns.

An aerial view of downtown Waterloo from the south looking north. Photo courtesy Dave Duprey.

The village of about 5,000 residents recently reduced Main Street from four lanes to two and added a bike lane. Future plans may see other traffic calming, bike routes, and sidewalk improvements based on this guiding document. The changes are intended to make it safer for people to walk and bike while also slowing traffic — promoting economic activity as well as healthy living.

The village believes its success will come from capitalizing on existing resources and improving connections and access to downtown from the Cayuga-Seneca Canal as well as neighboring communities. There are several existing biking and walking trails around Waterloo, as well as the Cayuga-Seneca Canal that runs behind Main Street, but cohesion between these elements only recently materialized with implementation of the comprehensive plan.

Waterloo residents hope that driving multimodal traffic to Main Street, coupled with rezoning, will help spur private investment and business development, helping Main Street achieve its potential as a robust commercial corridor.

Central to the entire process has been a robust, public-facing effort to involve the community. Main Street gives a whole new meaning to the term "it takes a village."

Everyone is welcome to join in on the annual Celebrate Freedom Parade during Celebrate Commemorate Memorial Day in May. Photo courtesy Dave Duprey.

Defining Characteristics and Features

  • In recognition of their historic importance, Waterloo was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in late 2017.
  • The Village of Waterloo has used a number of tools at its disposal to improve the village, participating in CDBG programs including Microenterprise and CDBG Housing, as well as Main Street programs.
  • The village is official birthplace of Memorial Day, which has become a mainstay for Main Street. Thousands of visitors come to the village annually on the day of remembrance.
  • The National Memorial Day Museum, located on Main Street, features exhibits that highlight the history of Memorial Day and the Village of Waterloo.
  • Main Street is just a quick walk from the beautiful Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail and is considered the heart of the Finger Lakes region.
  • Waterloo's Lafayette Park and its American Civil War Memorial allow visitors a place to reflect.
  • The Village of Waterloo is a part of the Women's Rights National Historic Park for its role in the drafting of the Declaration of Sentiments for the first Woman's Rights Convention in 1848.

By the Numbers

  • 12,000-18,000 people visit downtown Waterloo annually during Memorial Day celebrations
  • 5 new small businesses have opened downtown because of a recent grant
  • $7 million in state and federal funding has been received for various projects on and around Main Street and downtown

Designated Area

The commercial corridor of Main Street runs one-third of a mile from Locust Street at the western end to Church Street on the eastern end.

Wheels on Main St. car show during Celebrate Commemorate Memorial Day with craft show in background. Photo courtesy Dave Duprey.

Web Resources

Village of Waterloo Website

Village of Waterloo Comprehensive Plan