New York State is creating a $50 million East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund, an initiative to spark revitalization of the East Side through investments in the four main commercial corridors: Michigan, Jefferson, Fillmore, and Bailey avenues. Funding will help to revive these 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.
The fund compliments previous State investments on the East Side including $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.”
Through an analysis of economic and land use data, a look at past investments, and in-depth stakeholder engagement, Empire State Development (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.
The $50 million East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund is proposed as allocations in the following 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.
“We have beautiful, historic buildings and historic architecture,” said Cuomo. “We spent too many years as a society knocking down the old. Now we actually appreciate the old. And the architectural beauty and significance. We want to keep it; we’re going to invest $5 million to improve our historic buildings in the East Side. And the commercial corridors that make up the East Side that are the arteries of the East Side, they have beautiful old stores. They have great potential, but we have to develop those streetscapes and those main streets and those storefronts and we’re going to invest $10 million in doing that in the East Side.”
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.”