On March 11, 2020, 10 community revitalization projects in and around Buffalo, New York received awards totaling $5.89 million through the fourth round of the Better Buffalo Fund.
The program, launched in 2014, supports projects that encourage density and growth along transportation corridors and revitalize neighborhood commercial districts. The latest round of funding will help complete the renovation of 129 residential units and more than 183,078 square feet of storefront and commercial space, while leveraging more than $52 million in private investment.
“We are making strategic investments through the Better Buffalo Fund that are reducing sprawl by encouraging transit oriented development and revitalizing neighborhoods in targeted areas of Buffalo,” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. “The comprehensive approach we’ve taken for Buffalo and Western New York is fueling the transformation of the city and generating economic growth across the region.”
A key initiative of Governor Cuomo’s revitalization efforts in Western New York, the Better Buffalo Fund aims to create vibrant, mixed-use, high-density neighborhoods, while improving access to the major employment hubs by creating stronger transit and transportation linkages between neighborhoods employment centers, job training and services. Applicants applied for grants and revolving loan funds through the Better Buffalo Fund for one of two initiatives—Transit-Oriented Development and Buffalo Main Streets.
For this latest round, the eligible area for the Fund was extended to include Broadway, between Cedar and Mortimer streets, and Main Street, between Mohawk and Seneca streets.
New York State Homes & Community Renewal Commissioner & CEO RuthAnne Visnauskas explained, “Governor Cuomo’s commitment to building a better Buffalo has been evident from the first day of his administration. Preserving and building affordable housing and reinvigorating main streets have been a central objective that HCR is proud to advance with our community and private sector partners in Buffalo. These six new awards totaling $2.3 million through the Buffalo Main Streets Initiative will provide opportunities for residents to live in neighborhoods where businesses thrive, are walkable and accessible to public transit. We can clearly see the direct benefits of the state’s ongoing investment in improving Buffalo’s neighborhoods and the quality of life for its residents. Congratulations to all the awardees.”
This announcement was made at Black Rock Freight House, a mixed-use redevelopment project that transformed mostly vacant industrial space into 35 loft style, one, two and three-bedroom apartments and roughly 3,000-square-feet of commercial space. The commercial space will house a second location for Hatchets and House, which will open later this month. This project by Common Bond Real Estate received a $750,000 loan in round three of the Better Buffalo Fund.
“The Better Buffalo Fund is bringing back forgotten neighborhoods so that the people who lived there all their lives can continue to be proud and raise their families there,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “I ride my bike around the city traveling through the neighborhoods, and can feel an energy and electricity that wasn’t there during my years as a child or young adult raising my family. These projects are improving quality of life and transforming communities for the future.”
The Governor has committed $40 million to the Better Buffalo Fund through the Buffalo Billion initiative. After four rounds of the program, the Better Buffalo Fund has awarded more than $31.9 million to 51 projects. These projects are renovating more than 554 residential units and more than 514,200 square feet of store front and commercial space, while also leveraging more than $253 million in private investment in the City of Buffalo. See map here.
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and CEO & Commissioner-designate Eric Gertler said, “The Better Buffalo Fund is making significant progress as we continue to foster the economic development and transformation of Buffalo’s neighborhoods.”
Better Buffalo Fund-awarded projects include:
Transit-Oriented Development Awarded Projects
Four Transit-Oriented Development awards total $3,616,000 in loans. This program provides up to $2 million in gap financing, loans or grants for projects that encourage the use of multi-modal transportation and stimulate pedestrian activity though retail and neighborhood-oriented businesses and services, quality public space and accessible walkways. The target region for this development is within a quarter-mile walking distance of Buffalo transit stops on Bailey Avenue, Grant Street, Main Street, Niagara Street, Utica Street and Fillmore Avenue corridors.
La Plaza de Virginia – $1,866,000 loan
- Applicant: Hispanos Unidos de Buffalo, Inc.
- This $16.5 million project at 253-269 Virginia Street is a mixed-use infill, new construction project that will transform four lots in the City of Buffalo, including a deteriorated building and vacant underutilized land, into a three-story, approximately 50,933-square-foot mixed-use building that includes 46 units of affordable senior housing and approximately 8,678 square feet of commercial space on the basement and first floor for a cafe, Senior Service Center and office space for nonprofit service providers.
Musical Suites – $500,000 loan
- Applicant: Musical Suites LLC.
- This $4.8 million project at 415 Elmwood Avenue is an adaptive reuse of a historic building and an urban infill construction of a new building over an existing parking lot. The existing historic building will be converted into a 12-unit multifamily apartment unit building with a small first-floor professional office space. The new building will feature a first-floor open parking structure with the upper second and third floors consisting of 10 new multifamily apartment units for a total of 22 apartment units.
The Monroe – $750,000 loan
- Applicant: The Monroe Building LLC.
- This $6.4 million project at 1786 Main Street and 1040 Lafayette Avenue is an adaptive reuse of the historic building, the former Record Theatre, that will create a walkable and vibrant urban space for modern uses on Main Street. Once completed, the project will include 15 market-rate apartments, a record store, a comic book store, a cafe and vegan doughnut shop, vintage clothing retailers, office space, a restaurant, facilities for bicycle-focused companies, and a community and private patio.
Olympic Avenue Housing – $500,000 loan
- Applicant: CDS Monarch Inc.
- This $17.8 million project at 321 Olympic Avenue involves the adaptive reuse of the historic School 78 building and converting it into a 46-unit affordable housing community.
Buffalo Main Streets Initiative Awarded Projects
Six Main Streets awards totaled $2,275,000 in grants. A program modeled on the New York State Main Street program, the Buffalo Main Streets Initiative provides grants ranging from $50,000 to $1 million to non-profit and neighborhood business associations in the City of Buffalo that will renovate some of the most promising spaces in the downtown area.
The Buffalo Main Streets Initiative is targeting Allentown, Broadway, Chippewa Street, East Delavan, Elmwood Village, Grant/Amherst, Grant/Ferry, Hertel, Kaisertown, Lovejoy, Lower Niagara/Lakeview, Main Street, Seneca-Caz, South Park, Tonawanda/Ontario, Upper Niagara Street and Connecticut Street corridors. New York State Homes and Community Renewal will be administering these grants.
Broadway Pratt Gateway Neighborhood Alliance – $400,000 grant
- Applicant: True Community Development Corp.
- The True Community Development Corp., in partnership with the Broadway Pratt Gateway Neighborhood Alliance, will use grant funds to assist in the renovation of boarded-up storefronts along Broadway (from Cedar to Mortimer streets) and creation of a streetscape project with Grassroots Gardens of WNY on a vacant lot. This project will leverage local and private owner funds to start the change needed for Broadway Pratt Gateway Neighborhood Alliance’s revitalization efforts.
Development for Delavan – $350,000 grant
- Applicant: University District Community Development Association, Inc.
- UDCDA will use funds to work with property owners along Delavan Avenue to rehabilitate four commercial storefronts and four residential units that are located within mixed-use commercial properties. This work will build on UDCDA’s efforts to reposition Delavan Avenue as a thriving East Side commercial corridor and hub of small business activity.
Historic Allentown Building Improvements – $500,000 grant
- Applicant: Allentown Association Inc.
- The Allentown Association will use grant funds to assist in the renovation of commercial storefronts and building renovations in historic Allentown. This project is expected to leverage local and private funds to continue Allentown’s commercial district revitalization efforts.
Buffalo Place Main Street Revitalization – $300,000 grant
- Applicant: Buffalo Place, Inc.
- Buffalo Place will use grant funds to assist in the renovation of buildings at an estimated total project cost of $2,108,308. The projects will leverage private funds to rehabilitate vacant and underutilized buildings, buildout space to attract first-floor tenants and develop much-needed new residential units. These projects will contribute to life on the street, increase the vitality of Main Street and continue Buffalo Place’s downtown revitalization efforts.
Seneca Street Project Phase III – $350,000 grant
- Applicant: Coalition for a Vibrant Seneca, Inc.
- Coalition for a Vibrant Seneca will use grant funds to improve viability and walkability of the Seneca Street corridor. Seneca Street Improvement Phase III targets an area between Weyand and Bailey avenues, carrying forward the work of two previous awards, and leverages bookend streetscape improvements at Onondaga Park and Seneca Bluffs.
Upper Niagara Street Black Rock Phase 2 Buffalo – $375,000 grant
- Applicant: BRRAlliance Inc.
- The BRRAlliance will use grant funds to implement renovation to storefronts and apartments on Niagara Street in the Black Rock Village area of Buffalo. Renovations of Niagara Street and Market Square include needed storefront renovations; creation of spaces for new businesses; and upgraded, yet affordable, residential units.
Four target areas were removed from the program—Bailey, Broadway/Fillmore, Fillmore/MLK and Jefferson Avenue—as funding is being allocated to those areas through specific programming in the $50 million East Side Economic Development Corridor Fund.
Local leaders praise the revitalization program:
Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, WNYREDC Co-Chair and Buffalo State College President said, “Today’s announcement is another example of the transformational projects underway through the Better Buffalo Fund. Our strategic approach uses smart growth principles to revitalize neighborhoods and attract private investment in our wonderful community.”
Senator Tim Kennedy said, “With continued state investment through the Better Buffalo Fund, our region will continue to build vibrant neighborhoods along transportation networks, creating new opportunities and enhancing connectivity along these routes. This strategic emphasis on smart growth is truly revitalizing our region, and the impact is evident in the walkable, accessible communities we’re creating.”
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said, “This $5.8 million award from Governor’s Better Buffalo Fund will help Buffalo continue on its’ path to creating more vibrant, high density, mixed-use neighborhoods. This money will help restore store fronts, renovate commercial spaces, and create housing along transportation corridors, which will in turn attract people to some of the city’s once forgotten neighborhoods. Thank you, Governor Cuomo for your continued investment in our great city.”
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, “The Better Buffalo Fund has been investing in Buffalo’s future by providing funding for projects that help us to continue the development we’ve seen in Buffalo. This investment in our community is helping to reactivate underutilized properties and revitalize neighborhoods across our city. This program has been a vital part of the resurgence we’ve seen in Buffalo, and I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and investment in Western New York.”
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, “The Better Buffalo Fund is injecting new life and energy into Buffalo’s historic neighborhoods and communities, restoring their vitality, building their identity, and connecting them across the city. New housing and retail opportunities are the result of these investments and the improvements are good for the entire community.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “Once again the Better Buffalo Fund will fuel game-changing projects in our City’s neighborhoods and along our commercial corridors. In this fourth round of funding, another 10 projects will receive nearly $5.9 million in state funds, which will aid the creation of another 129 residential units and revitalization of over 183,000 square feet of neighborhood storefronts and commercial space. My Administration is proud to work with Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development to continue the Better Buffalo Fund’s strategic support to invigorate neighborhoods and commercial corridors across the City of Buffalo.”
Featured rendering of Buffalo’s revitalized waterfrong is courtesy of Eek Architects.