The University District Community Development Association (UDCDA) is moving into the next phase of their efforts to revitalize the Bailey Avenue corridor with the roll-out of their “Better on Bailey” initiative – a grant program designed to provide support for building owners seeking to renovate their properties.
The last few years have seen significant progress on Bailey Avenue, thanks to a steady, grassroots momentum driven by UDCDA and the Bailey Avenue Business Association (BABA). A 2013 Urban Initiatives grant awarded to UDCDA and Ibrahim Cisse made possible the restoration of the historic Varsity Theatre, re-establishing a once dormant space as an anchor institution in the neighborhood. The “Bailey Fights Blight” initiative, launched in 2014 by BABA and the University Heights Tool Library, brought community groups together to beautify the streetscape, board up vacant buildings, and participate in public art projects. Since that time, residents and volunteers have continued regular cleanups, painting days and gardening projects along Bailey and the surrounding streets.
These consistent efforts helped to breathe new life into Bailey Avenue and the neighborhood continues to see improvements in the form of investments, new businesses opening, and sale of vacant properties. A recent injection of funding from the Buffalo Billion will usher in the next phase of UDCDA’s plans to transform Bailey into a thriving commercial corridor and hub for small business growth.
“While there is a continued emphasis on big ticket development projects across the city, it is through these fine-grained, incremental investments that real neighborhood change happens,” said Darren Cotton, UDCDA Director of Community Development & Planning. “By leveraging years of community-led work, we have a real opportunity to bring the heart of our neighborhood back.”
UDCDA was recently awarded a $300,000 Buffalo Main Streets Grant from the Better Buffalo Fund. This funding is designated specifically for projects that encourage density along transportation corridors and revitalize neighborhood commercial districts. The organization will use the funding to launch its “Better on Bailey” initiative, which will provide grants to Bailey Avenue building owners to help them renovate their properties and revitalize the streetscape.
Building owners are invited to apply for reimbursement grants for up to $50,000 per building renovated, with an additional $25,000 available for upgrades to residential units. Funding can be used for renovations including façade improvements, awnings, signage, lighting, interior commercial and residential building upgrades, and streetscape enhancements. Once projects are completed, grantees will be reimbursed 75% of eligible project expenses.
A recent housing conditions survey conducted by the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood found that residential vacancy and blight was concentrated in the blocks closest to Bailey Avenue. UDCDA hopes to help mitigate those issues by continuing its redevelopment efforts with the Better on Bailey program, while also leveraging additional grant funding for home repairs.
The Better on Bailey initiative is targeting the section of Bailey Avenue between Dartmouth and Westminster. However, property owners located between Winspear and the Kensington Expressway are also encouraged to apply for grant assistance. There are two upcoming information sessions scheduled for Thursday, March 9 at 6 p.m. and Thursday, March 16 at 8 a.m. Both will be held at 995 Kensington Avenue. To RSVP for the info sessions, call (716) 832-1010 x212. The deadline for grant applications is March 31, 2017.
To learn more about the Better on Bailey program, review the funding application, or find information on other initiatives in the University District, visit the UDCDA website.