14 projects to enhance waterfront access & public spaces, streetscape walkability & connectivity, arts & culture, business & housing opportunities
√ Project renderings available here
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday announced 14 transformational projects in the City of North Tonawanda as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award. Her team said the funding “will leverage the community's rich historic, cultural and natural resources.”
Hochul said, "Two hundred years ago, the construction of the Erie Canal put New York on the map as the Empire State, and today, we pay homage to this rich history by investing in North Tonawanda, the ‘Gateway to the Erie Canal.’ Through strategic investments in connecting waterways, enhancing the main commercial corridor, and expanding arts and cultural opportunities, North Tonawanda will attract locals and visitors from across the state for decades to come."
A press release said, “The City of North Tonawanda sits at the confluence of the Niagara River and the Erie Canal, which offers residents and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy waterways, the beauty of the natural landscapes and the multitude of landside cultural and recreational amenities offered."
The city's revitalization is focused on implementing a series of projects to strengthen Webster Street, the city's primary commercial corridor, while expanding development to Tonawanda Island and Oliver Street.
The press release noted, “The awards will create a unique sense of place, improve the walkability and attractiveness of the DRI area, enhance cultural amenities and attract more visitors, preserve and revitalize historic buildings, support the construction of new buildings that result in more housing and business opportunities, and provide additional waterfront access for residents and visitors.
“The investments are part of the governor's ongoing efforts to revitalize the economy and create more opportunities within Western New York. The DRI is led by the Department of State providing technical assistance as each participating community develops a strategic investment plan identifying specific projects with a unique vision for the revitalization of the downtown area.
“The specific projects to be funded through the DRI support several goals and strategies contained in the community's strategic investment plan, such as enhancing waterfront access and public spaces; improving streetscape walkability and connectivity; expanding arts and cultural opportunities; and expanding business and housing opportunities. The $9.7 million state investment in these projects through the DRI will leverage additional public and private investments as the revitalization process proceeds and builds momentum.
The specific projects to be funded through the DRI include:
A mixed-use development at 122 Webster St. (Artist’s rendering courtesy of the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul)
Enhance Waterfront Access and Public Spaces
•Creating a Public River Walk at 624 River Road – DRI award $156,000: Construct a 300-foot walkway along the Niagara River for public access to the waterfront and connection to the existing bike trail along River Road.
•Revitalizing 78 Bridge St. – DRI award $750,000: Develop public access to the waterfront on Tonawanda Island.
•Implementing Placemaking Improvements – DRI award: $1,000,000: Improve the landscaping, infrastructure and amenities at Charles R. Fleischmann Park; enhance and update Webster and Main streets streetscape; install electric car charging stations and enhance Manhattan Street parking lot.
Improve Streetscape Walkability and Connectivity
•Improving the Walkability and Streetscape of Oliver Street – DRI award: $1,500,000: Implement sidewalk and crosswalk enhancements, bumpouts, installation of green space, increased pedestrian-scale lighting and other amenities to improve the walkability and appearance of Oliver Street.
Expand Arts and Cultural Opportunities
•Updating and Expanding the Riviera Theatre – DRI award: $1,200,000: Modernize and expand the National Register-listed Riviera Theatre, a downtown anchor since 1926. This 6,000-square-foot-plus expansion will include new ADA restrooms, concession area, box office, and artists' merchandise area.
•Improving the Railroad Museum of the Niagara Frontier – DRI award: $470,000: Enhance and improve the pedestrian and visitor experience at the museum.
•Restoring the Allan Herschell Company Complex Music Room – DRI award: $210,000: Restore a portion of the Allan Herschell Company Complex, which collapsed in 1995. Restoration will include a new music room connected to the rest of the complex.
Increase Housing and Business Opportunities
•Developing a Mixed-Use Building at 122 Webster St. – DRI award: $1,360,000: Develop a two-story mixed-use residential/commercial complex with apartments and first-floor commercial storefronts.
•Renovating 27 Main St. – DRI award $1,000,000: Convert a vacant former furniture store into a commercial prep kitchen, a seasonal ice cream shop/restaurant, and multiple retail spaces.
•Establishing the Commercial Property Improvement Grant Program – DRI award: $630,000: Create a grant program to address small-scale projects and underutilized buildings within the DRI area.
•Rebuilding 211 Main St., as a Professional Services Incubator – DRI award: $549,000: Remediate a brownfield site and construct an office building that will be an incubator for landscape, engineering, and construction-related businesses seeking a collaborative work environment.
•Constructing a New Apartment Complex at 10 Goundry St. – DRI award: $525,000: Demolish an existing structure and replace it with a residential apartment complex.
•Rehabilitating 230 Oliver St. – DRI award: $250,000: Convert an historic building into a mixed-use property with commercial and residential units.
•Upgrading 235/239 Oliver St. – DRI award: $100,000: Upgrade low-income apartment units.
New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, "The City of North Tonawanda has some of the state's most beautiful natural resources and historic buildings right in its own backyard, and the targeted investments being made through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative will further improve these incredible spaces. These projects will enhance public access to the Niagara River and waterfront on Tonawanda Island, modernize and restore historic theater and musical facilities, and increase housing and business opportunities – all while further connecting the neighborhood through enhancements and amenities that improve walkability, and encourage residents and travelers to explore all that downtown North Tonawanda has to offer. I look forward to seeing the success of these projects and how they will transform this community into a lively hub of activity."
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, "These targeted Downtown Revitalization Initiative investments will strengthen North Tonawanda's mixed-use commercial corridor and encourage growth beyond the Lumber City's city center. The DRI pairing of state support and community-led plans is building a vibrant future in history-rich North Tonawanda for residents and visitors alike, through enhanced waterfront access and public spaces, improved streetscapes, expanded arts and cultural attractions and increased housing and businesses opportunities."
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "The people of North Tonawanda have created a sprawling and realistic vision for their future as the ‘Gateway to the Erie Canal.’ This $10 million Downtown Revitalization award will benefit every economic sector and community in this historic town with targeted investments in waterfront improvements and access, new housing, historic building renovation, and other downtown improvements. The net result will be a more hospitable, livable, sustainable and affordable town that emphasizes its history as a capital of the lumber industry and embraces a rich and exciting future."
New York State Sen. Rob Ortt said, "By investing in the downtown areas of our state's small cities, towns and villages, we are bringing new life to communities and neighborhoods that are in need of an economic revival. The City of North Tonawanda has done a great job transforming its downtown since I first served as mayor in 2010, and this $10 million will only help to bolster the commerce area of a city that is heading in the right direction. I look forward to seeing the positive impacts that come from this welcomed investment."
Assembly member William Conrad said, "North Tonawanda's downtown renaissance represents the collaborative spirit and collective vision of many community and government partners. This DRI funding will provide a tremendous boost to their efforts, which are enhancing the walkability and vibrancy of the Webster corridor and Oliver Street, thereby connecting and promoting NT's lovely business district and unique cultural landmarks. I thank the city's loyal network of supporters for their steady commitment to their community, and today I offer special thanks to Gov. Hochul and the Department of State for rewarding the great progress – and recognizing the great potential – of North Tonawanda."
Assembly member Angelo J. Morinello said, "Downtown Revitalization Initiative awards have proven to be transformational to all cities that have received them. I am extremely excited and grateful to Gov. Hochul for choosing North Tonawanda for this round of awards."
Mayor Austin Tylec said, "We are grateful to be a part of Gov. Hochul's initiative to revitalize communities throughout NYS by improving public spaces, promoting walkability, expanding waterfront access, and increasing commercial and residential opportunities. These 14 projects will expand efforts to enhance, revitalize, and usher growth throughout our downtown, Oliver Street corridor, and waterfront for businesses, residents and visitors to our city. Thank you to Gov. Hochul, the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, Department of State, our DRI steering committee, and North Tonawanda’s community development director, Laura Wilson, for helping our city continue its momentum."
Downtown Revitalization Initiative
Hochul’s team said, “New York state's DRI, a cornerstone of its economic development program, transforms downtown neighborhoods into vibrant centers that offer a high quality of life and are magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, and economic and housing diversity. Led by the Department of State with assistance from Empire State Development, Homes and Community Renewal and NYSERDA, the DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative ‘plan-then-act’ strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation and results in compact, walkable downtowns that are a key ingredient to helping New York state rebuild its economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to achieving the state's bold climate goals by promoting the use of public transit and reducing dependence on private vehicles.”
More information on the DRI is available here.