The city of Buffalo, New York‘s East Side comprises more than 40% of the city’s total land area, over 40 percent of total residents, and about 30 percent of total jobs and businesses.
But it has not been on par with the rest of Buffalo’s revitalization, which has been reported regularly here in REVITALIZATION over the years. Now, there’s a good chance that might be about to change.
On March 12, 2019, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the $50 million East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund, an initiative to spark revitalization of Buffalo’s East Side through investments in the four main commercial corridors: Michigan, Jefferson, Fillmore, and Bailey avenues.
Congressman Brian Higgins said, “Western New York has seen incredible progress over the last several years, but for Buffalo to reach its full potential revitalization must reach into our neighborhoods. Today’s announcement by Governor Cuomo, combined with federal investments in Northland Workforce Training Center, Fillmore Avenue infrastructure and Jefferson Avenue development projects, represents an exciting leap forward in East Side revitalization.”
Funding will help to revive traditional main streets and commercial corridors through the preservation of historic buildings, funding of capital improvements in neighborhood assets, expansion of commercial opportunities, improvements to infrastructure, as well as the promotion of mixed-use private investment in these neighborhoods.
Senator Tim Kennedy said, “This investment of tens of millions of dollars on the East Side of Buffalo is exactly what we need. Our community’s commercial corridors are vibrant and diverse, and with this focused effort we can begin to unlock their true potential to build up our neighborhoods, making Buffalo an even better place to live. The Buffalo Billion II continues to pay dividends by targeting state investment into local communities and I was proud to fight for its inclusion in the state budget.”
The fund complements previous investments on the East Side of $10 million for the Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative and $5 million for the Buffalo Central Terminal, for a total of $65 million in investments since 2017.
“Commercial corridors like Buffalo’s East Side play a significant role in the vitality, livability and character of our cities,” Governor Cuomo said. “In recent years we’ve made significant investments to build a new Buffalo including workforce training, and today we’re announcing another $50 million in the East Side to build on those assets and ensure all the arrows continue to point in the right direction.”
“With this significant investment in Buffalo’s East Side, we are continuing our commitment to ensure that every neighborhood takes part in the economic recovery happening across Western New York,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “For decades, we witnessed jobs and businesses disappear and East Side residents lose hope. I have seen firsthand how we are rebuilding that hope with projects like the Northland Workforce Training Center, which is providing new opportunities for good paying jobs. We are taking the next steps by allocating even more resources to strengthen neighborhoods, improve infrastructure, and build a better future.”
Through an analysis of economic and land use data, a look at past investments, and in-depth stakeholder engagement, ESD worked with the City of Buffalo’s Office of Strategic Planning to identify nine target areas along the four East Side Commercial Corridors where the funding will be focused to create a holistic and sustainable approach to revitalization and a unifying voice for the community.
East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund allocations are in these categories:
- MLK Park District ($6.6 million) – Funding will be used for park restoration and upgrades as well as restoration of the Museum’s formal front stairway to be used for community programming.
- Broadway Market ($4 million) – Funding will provide for a master plan and capital investment fund to support more sustainable, year-round operations as a neighborhood food source, as well as provide neighborhood linkages with the Buffalo Central Terminal and other neighborhood assets.
- Community Solar Array at Northland ($2 million) – Funds will provide for the building of a solar array at 683 Northland Ave., which will be competitively solicited for development as part of the operation of a community micro-grid, and to develop hands-on workforce training opportunities in solar specialties in conjunction with the Northland Workforce Training Center (also located at 683 Northland Ave.)
- Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor ($7 million) – Will provide funding for capital improvements to anchor organizations in the corridor including the Colored Musicians Club, Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Nash House Museum, and WUFO Black Radio History Collective, as well as future funding to be determined through a master management and joint operations plan.
- Future Projects Funding ($12.6 million) that will support:
- Creation of an East Side Main Streets Grant Program, expanding the Buffalo Main Streets program to provide larger funding for corridor areas over a longer period, to be used for capital improvements by small businesses in the corridors to conduct exterior and interior building upgrades. This program will also be more flexible and address prior barriers to participation experienced by several small businesses in the existing Main Streets programs for other corridors;
- Creation of a Community-Based Real Estate Development Training Program that can empower community members with the skills and know-how to plan for and implement a development or infill project on their own properties, fostering entrepreneurial spirit and creativity and better ensuring that land and buildings along the East Side corridors are improved in manner driven by the community. The program will include funding to provide capital grants to building owners who complete the training and mentoring to be used in the renovation and reuse of their properties; and
- A Building Preservation Fund to conduct preventative maintenance and near-term stabilization of at-risk historic buildings to preserve them for private reinvestment/reuse in the longer term. Program parameters are being established and funding will be provided to entities demonstrating a strong intent and plan to restore a historic property, and to avoid funding entities practicing purposeful “demolition by neglect” or similar bad practices like property tax delinquency.
- Direct Project Funding ($7.4 million) – Capital funding to businesses and individuals for projects, ensuring revitalization on the East Side is driven by the community. Proposed projects include funding for building out of commercial spaces in mixed-use buildings, restoration and reuse of historic structures, and funding set aside for future projects.
- Infrastructure Investment ($10 million) – Will provide the City of Buffalo with funding for street improvements—specifically to be used only in the four corridors and target areas—that complement ESD’s investments and leverage state/federal transportation funds wherever possible.
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “The $50 million East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund represents ongoing holistic and strategic investments in this Buffalo neighborhood that are fueling its growth and revitalization.”
In July 2017, Governor Cuomo dedicated $10 million of a $60 million allocation towards the “Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative,” leaving $50 million to revitalize its commercial corridors. Working with other public and private funders, the Fund seeks to create a holistic and sustainable approach to revitalization and a unifying voice for the community.
Additional funding includes:
- Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative – $10 million is being managed by New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) and has thus far been awarded for the following uses:
- Homeownership Opportunities Program ($2 million) – Administered by the City of Buffalo, this program will invest funding into 28 city-owned and vacant properties on the East Side. Once renovated, the City will sell the homes through a process approved by ESD. Proceeds from sales will be reinvested into a revolving fund to continue the program until all funds have been exhausted. Overarching goal is to increase homeownership and contribute to neighborhood stabilization and growth.
- Housing Preservation ($1.4 million) – Administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, this program is part of the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, remediating home health hazards and weatherizing homes on the East Side, enabling low income families to remain in their homes.
- Community Restoration Fund ($1 million) – Administered by SONYMA, this program is purchasing mortgages on the East Side and providing homeowners with a variety of assistance to reduce foreclosures and permit homeowners to remain in their residences.
- Habitat for Humanity ($120,000) – Funding will allow for purchase of homes in the East Side by Habitat for Humanity, to be renovated and available for purchase by families.
- Central Terminal Restoration – $5 million was allocated to the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation to begin design and renovation of portions of the iconic historic structure. An additional $400,000 is being allocated through the ESCEDF to provide funding for a neighborhood/property master plan and to examine potential linkages with its companion neighborhood asset, the Broadway Market.
Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO said, “NYPA has been a strong advocate for the development of Buffalo’s eastside, supporting several local businesses and organizations with economic development investments over the years. NYPA, in coordination with ESD and under the direction of Governor Cuomo, has been steadfast in its support and will continue to seek out future opportunities to spur investment in this important community.”
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “I’d like to congratulate today’s awardees from the Governor’s East Side Economic Development Fund. Michigan, Jefferson, Bailey, and Fillmore Avenues will get $50 million to help towards their revitalization efforts. Funds will help with long overdue infrastructure, capital repairs, business development, new housing, and in turn create economic opportunities for residents. I look forward to watching the strengthening and transformation of our commercial corridors.”
The announcement was made at the recently opened Northland Workforce Training Center (NWTC), the anchor of the Northland Corridor. As a signature workforce development initiative, NWTC is an industry-driven, public-private partnership between employers, educational institutions, community and faith-based organizations, and state and local government.
The NWTC is focused on closing the skills gap of the local labor pool and creating economic on-ramps to training, co-ops, internships, apprenticeships, and permanent employment in advanced manufacturing and energy careers, targeted at some the most underrepresented groups in the region’s current workforce.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “Unfortunately decades of disinvestment by both business and government resulted in Buffalo’s East Side falling significantly behind other areas of the greater community. While there are still many issues to address, I commend Governor Cuomo for his investment of $50 million in various neighborhoods and projects that are essential to the core of Buffalo’s eastside. Hopefully the East Side Corridor Development Fund will act as a catalyst and spur additional private sector investment, unlike other attempts which have failed in the past.”
The NWTC facility is being funded with $44.1 million from Empire State Development as part of a larger $127 million investment in the Northland Corridor Redevelopment Area Project, and $15 million from the New York Power Authority. ESD and NYPA are partnering with the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC; a City of Buffalo-sponsored local development agency), which is serving as developer for the project as well as the larger Northland campus.
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “I am very grateful Governor Cuomo has announced $50 million in targeted investment to continue the revitalization of Buffalo’s East Side through the East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund. These funds will support the economic resurgence of Buffalo’s East Side, best demonstrated by the success of the Northland Workforce Training Center, and the growth of that corridor in an area of the City which has suffered from a disproportionate allocation of resources for decades. This will significantly help progress in every neighborhood.”
Photo (by Andre Carrotflower via Wikimedia Commons) shows Genesee Street on the East Side of Buffalo in April of 2015.