Up to $10 million recommended to support economic and community development in Dunkirk, North Tonawanda, Lackawanna & Gowanda
Projects align with Buffalo Billion strategy to accelerate smart growth in Buffalo Niagara Region
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday announced four Western New York communities have been selected to receive up to $10 million in funding from the Buffalo Billion II initiative. The City of Dunkirk, City of North Tonawanda, City of Lackawanna and Village of Gowanda are recipients of Smart Growth Community Funds for projects that utilize existing infrastructure to support placemaking, walkable communities and sustainable development.
"Buffalo Billion funding is establishing accessible, vibrant and sustainable communities across the entire region." Cuomo said. "Through this initial round of the Smart Growth Community Fund, we are encouraging the growth of new businesses, restaurants, and greenspace that will help attract young workers, build prosperity and further fuel the renaissance of Western New York."
Following the example of successful smart growth locations such as Brooklyn, Roanoke, Virginia, and Bend, Oregon, the governor's camp said Western New York Regional Economic Development Council is embracing growth and downtown redevelopment as core economic goals in its strategy for prosperity. Businesses are increasingly locating in or near vibrant, walkable downtowns built on the principles of smart growth because that's where the millennial workforce wants to live, work and raise a family. Investments in existing downtowns also have been found to reduce local infrastructure and municipal service costs, thus helping to ease fiscal difficulties.
The WNYREDC made recommendations for Dunkirk, North Tonawanda, Lackawanna and Gowanda to receive a portion of the available Smart Growth Community funding. Following approval of these nominations, Empire State Development staff made a visit to each of the four recommended communities to discuss their proposed project list and to better understand the locations and readiness of each project. The visit report was presented at the WNYREDC meeting in August and received approval from the committee to proceed with the awards.
Four Western New York communities were chosen based on applications and interviews that closely aligned with and met criteria of the Smart Growth Community Funds. The remaining $10 million of the fund will be awarded in future smart growth rounds.
Recipients of the Western New York Smart Growth Community Fund are included with funding recommended by the Western New York REDC below:
City of Dunkirk: Up to $2.5 million
Projects could include:
Improvements to the pier and reconfiguration of the harbor plaza, creating greenspace and a more pedestrian-friendly area for recreation and events.
Funding for the Central Connections Community Connector to create opportunities for rebranding and improving signage between downtown Dunkirk, SUNY Fredonia and the Village of Fredonia.
Funding for a mixed-use infill development that would enhance activity along the waterfront and connect the existing waterfront trail.
City of North Tonawanda: Up to $2.5 million
Projects could include:
Funding for improvements at Gateway Harbor, including new public restrooms, upgraded electrical utilities to docks, new park picnic areas and lighting.
Streetscape and pedestrian enhancements on Webster Street and Main Street, both important to the fabric of the central business district.
Pocket park improvements, including new landscaping, signage and amenities at three downtown locations.
Signage and visual improvements at downtown entry points.
Pedestrian improvements at three crossings located on River Road.
City of Lackawanna: Up to $2.5 million
Projects could include:
Central Business District intersection, streetscape and pedestrian enhancements to improve connectivity between community assets. This could include the intersection at Ridge Road and Electric Avenue; intersection at Ridge Road and South Park; connector trail between the Botanical Gardens and the Basilica; and creating a bike lane on Ridge Road from Route 5 to South Park Avenue.
Funding to help incentivize a development on a vacant parcel of land across from Memorial Field, former home to St. Barbara's Church, with the goal of creating a mixed-use development that will include market rate housing and retail space.
Enhancements to the park adjacent to Memorial Field and the public library to expand recreational opportunities and provide a venue for public uses.
Village of Gowanda: Up to $2.5 million
Projects could include:
Improve waterfront access at three locations to increase recreation and tourism: Zoar Valley Gateway Park - Enhance the safety and accessibility of the access point located in the ruins of the former factory, and improve various overlook areas; Creekside Park - Enhancements to the current pathways to provide access to the waterfront within the downtown area; and Aldrich Street - Formalize the area at the foot of the Aldrich Street bridge that is a popular location for fishermen.
Cuomo has made New York a smart growth state by initiating several laws, policies and programs that promote smart growth and downtown redevelopment since 2011. Some of these initiatives include the Better Buffalo Fund; Upstate Revitalization Initiative; an enhanced historic preservation tax credit; land banks legislation; zombie properties reforms; brownfield redevelopment reforms; complete streets law and funding; Community Risk & Resiliency Act; age friendly/health across all policies; cleaner greener and clean energy communities; climate-smart communities grants; and craft beverage reforms.
The Smart Growth Community Fund follows two rounds of the Better Buffalo Fund, which provided funding from the Buffalo Billion for the Buffalo main streets initiative and transit-oriented development. Over the past two years, the Better Buffalo Fund has provided over $20 million in support for projects that create compact, vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods and ensure all residents have access to the city's emerging job centers in the area.
Investments in historic preservation tax credits since the program was expanded under the governor's direction in 2013 have also resulted in more than $3 billion in investments from both the state and federal tax credit. Over two-thirds of those investments have been made in historic downtowns and commercial centers in upstate New York, and, in Western New York alone, 88 projects are yielding $532.2 million in qualified rehabilitation costs. That represents the largest number of projects in any region of the state and the largest dollar investment of any upstate region.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chairwoman of the Regional Economic Development Councils, said, "The amazing transformation taking place in Western New York has attracted worldwide recognition and is nothing less than astounding to people like me who grew up in this region. Programs like the Smart Growth Community Fund made available through Buffalo Billion II are creating a sustainable future for our younger generations. Our smaller cities and towns are taking an active role in their revitalization, utilizing historic buildings, waterfronts and green spaces to create places where people want to come live, work and play."
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The first recipients of the WNY Smart Growth Community Fund are strong advocates of sustainable development. With Buffalo Billion II funding, these communities will make their downtowns even more dynamic, bringing jobs and growth to their city centers."
Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and President of SolEpoxy Inc. Jeff Belt said, "The REDC congratulates these communities for working toward creating prosperous downtowns grounded in smart growth strategies. They are creating places that are ripe for economic opportunity and attractive to a dynamic workforce."
Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and President of the State University of New York at Fredonia Dr. Virginia Horvath said, "The direction of sprawl is finally being reversed as we see the value in reinvesting in our cities, towns and villages. The REDC congratulates these communities for staying focused on their smart growth strategies."
New York State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan said, "New York state's investment in these communities is important to the continued growth and revitalization of the entire Western New York region. I support the work of the WNY Regional Economic Development Council in working with cities, towns and villages to develop projects that will encourage the growth of business and improve the quality of life for residents."
New York State Sen. Robert Ortt said, "This is a tremendous investment in our communities that will help local governments, create jobs, and improve quality of life for residents. Importantly, it will build upon the downtown revitalization success we've seen transform North Tonawanda and similar communities across Western New York."
New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs said, "An important part of Western New York's resurgence has been our success in developing a sense of place that is attractive to businesses, families and young people in search of a place to build their future. The funding announced today will help these four Western New York communities create the kind of environment in their cities and village that will strengthen our entire region."
New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "Funding from the Buffalo Billion continues to enhance municipalities across Western New York by generating smart growth and revitalizing economies, neighborhood by neighborhood. Today's announcement will go a long way for the City of Lackawanna, and I was proud to support their application for this important state initiative. Thanks to Gov. Cuomo's continued investment, we are seeing a sustained progress like never before, and a strategic focus on highlighting our region's history and strengths."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "Investing in downtown revitalization is a smart economic development strategy, and I was proud to help secure this important funding in the state budget. I thank Gov. Cuomo and the WNYREDC for their efforts to distribute this funding to assist communities throughout Western New York. The Buffalo Billion is making a difference when it comes to economic growth and job creation, and this latest investment is a big win for Western New York."
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said, "Congratulations to all that were selected to receive funding through the Smart Growth Community Fund to support the growth and revitalization of their communities. I thank Gov. Cuomo for realizing the potential of our region and his continued investment through the Buffalo Billion that drives Western New York forward every day."
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "With these Smart Growth Fund investments, four WNY communities are moving ahead on their own revitalizations, improving their community centers and building more sustainable spaces for future growth. I thank Gov. Cuomo for his continued attention to improving our region and for this wise use of Buffalo Billion II funding."
Mayor of Lackawanna Geoff Szymanski said, "Under Gov. Cuomo's leadership, the City of Lackawanna has benefited tremendously, and this latest award puts us over the top. We are honored to be chosen to receive this generous Smart Growth Fund award, which will allow us to concentrate on revitalizing our business district."
Mayor of North Tonawanda Art Pappas said, "Thank you to Gov. Cuomo for selecting North Tonawanda to receive funding from the WNY Smart Growth Community Fund and also for visiting our city. North Tonawanda will now be able to move forward in enhancing the walkability and access to parks and greenspace for residents, as well as visitors to our great city."