KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation have come to the rescue. Together, they have donated $1.5 million to support the Westminster Economic Development Initiative’s (WEDI) new West Side Bazaar Project. The sizeable donation will help WEDI to realize its vision for the Bazaar’s new home on Niagara Street, which will not only open more doors for entrepreneurs on the West Side, it will also address the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion, which happens to be a part of KeyBank’s $40 billion National Community Benefits Plan.
First Niagara Foundation joins KeyBank in its goal of financially fortifying the West Side Bazaar, which will allow the market to quintuple in size. Once open at its new location – 1432 Niagara Street – the building will provide ample room for as many as 24 restaurants, retail, and professional services businesses. There will also be test kitchens for independent chefs, classrooms, event space, and seating for over 75 patrons. The building will also house nine full-time WEDI staff, as part of an operational consolidation effort. The West Side Bazaar is currently located at 25 Grant Street.
KeyBank will also host financial literacy programs at the new West Side Bazaar, providing community members the opportunity to learn about budgeting, borrowing and financial wellness.
“The West Side Bazaar is a jewel in Buffalo’s crown and is a catalyst for development, opportunity, hope and excitement on the West Side and across our whole city,” said Elizabeth Gurney, KeyBank Director of Corporate Philanthropy and Executive Director of the First Niagara Foundation. “We are proud to support them as they make this move which will enable them to provide even more opportunities to immigrants and refugees, and add more vibrancy and economic opportunities to the growing Niagara Street Corridor.”
This adaptive reuse project will go a long way towards strengthening the Niagara Street Corridor, which has seen plenty of investments in recent years, from dramatic new street infrastructure (with dedicated bike lanes) to numerous historic building reclamations.
As for the Bazaar itself, this infusion of funding will enable the incubator to:
- Provide a business anchor on the West Side, creating equitable paths to entrepreneurship and business ownership
- Provide minority and women-owned enterprises (MWBEs) with life-changing capital in dollar ranges not offered by any other community development financial institution in Western New York
- Support businesses being incubated through WEDI programming and provide crucial wrap-around services to support businesses to sustain and grow
- Enable emerging entrepreneurs from ethnic and racial minority communities to open small businesses and create jobs in their neighborhoods and communities
- Create equitable and inclusive development, combatting gentrification/displacement – planting a stake in the ground for grassroots development in the community
- Attract surrounding neighborhood residents and tourists to patronize businesses led by minorities, women, and low-income business owners, creating a ripple effect, and spreading the economic benefits in the community—advancing and creating self-sufficiency
- Provide MWBEs with transformative financial credit, eventually allowing them to borrow greater sums of capital from larger CDFIs and then banks
“This generous gift from KeyBank in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation is a catalyst for our capital campaign to move and expand our West Side Bazaar,” said WEDI Executive Director Carolynn Welch. ”WEDI’s mission is to create equity through education and by supporting underserved entrepreneurs as they build toward their own establishments and realize financial security – the Bazaar is a first expression of their brick-and-mortar dreams. The new Bazaar will be an anchor and destination on Niagara Street demonstrating that all residents of Western New York can succeed and thrive in a culturally inclusive community.”
Since 2014, KeyBank in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation has given WEDI more than $250,000 to support the West Side Bazaar, after-school programs and events.
“Our board is unanimous and enthusiastic in its vote to launch this capital campaign to build the new West Side Bazaar and affirmed by this significant gift from KeyBank in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation,” said WEDI Board Chair Stephen Zenger. “Together, we are creating a space that tells a story of growth and optimism for our region.”
The new Bazaar is anticipated to open to the public in the fall of 2022.