On December 4, 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that applications are now available for Round Three of the $40 million Better Buffalo Fund. The Better Buffalo Fund is a vital component of the Buffalo Billion initiative, and is dedicated to projects that revitalize neighborhood commercial districts and encourage density and growth along transportation corridors.
“Investments made through the Better Buffalo Fund support the revitalization of blighted or forgotten neighborhoods, improve commuter access to Buffalo transit stops and walkable areas, and help support the continued resurgence of this great city,” Governor Cuomo said. “I’m proud to offer this third round of funding to help ensure this unprecedented progress continues and that Western New York remains a region on the move.”
“Through the Better Buffalo Fund, Governor Cuomo is providing the building blocks for a more vibrant city by jump-starting the rebirth of our neighborhoods and business corridors,” said Lieutenant Governor Hochul. “The City of Buffalo is at the center of New York State’s efforts to lift up and rebuild the upstate economy. Demonstrated by its past success, I’m confident the third round of the Better Buffalo Fund will generate a fresh round of projects that will continue to fuel an already impressive transformation.”
The launch of Round Three builds on funding awarded through Round Two of the Better Buffalo Fund, which included a total of $9,130,042 awarded to 14 projects. These projects are renovating more than 250 residential units and more than 140,000 square-feet of store front and commercial space, while also leveraging over $131.4 million in private investment.
New York State Homes & Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas, said, “The Buffalo Main Streets Initiative is modeled after HCR’s successful New York Main Street program, and is working across the state to assist with renovations in mixed-use commercial districts—rehabilitating and improving buildings, breathing new life into historic districts, and making New York’s downtowns vibrant places where people want to live and work.”
An example of just one of the many projects supported by the BBF is The Mattress Factory, which was approved for a $500,000 loan by Empire State Development to help renovate a long-vacant Florida Street manufacturing complex an transform it into an apartment building. The $6.5 million project calls for the three-story, 46,000-square-foot building to include 34 apartments and 1,800-square-feet of first floor office space. The apartments are in a neighborhood that borders Canisius College and the Hamlin Park area, making it one of the largest private-sector projects in that part of Buffalo.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, “This latest round of the Better Buffalo Fund will help to boost neighborhoods throughout the City of Buffalo. By focusing on improving neighborhoods and access to transit, the Better Buffalo fund will continue the economic momentum that has been building in Buffalo and Western New York. The Buffalo Billion and the Better Buffalo Fund are important investments in our economic future. With a third round of the Better Buffalo Fund, we have another opportunity to strengthen dense mixed-use neighborhoods, and provide reliable transportation to schools and employment.”
Applicants for the third round may seek funding for one of two initiatives: Transit Oriented Development or Buffalo Main Streets.
Transit Oriented Development
Investing in transit oriented development will help connect residents and visitors in activity hubs throughout Buffalo and build the city’s reputation as a vibrant, thriving city. It will also support modern amenities and infrastructure, well-designed and friendly neighborhoods, and a wide array of assets which are accessible to all residents.
Up to $2 million in gap financing, loan or grant, is available 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 ¼ mile walking distance of Buffalo transit stops on Bailey Avenue, Grant Street, Main Street, Niagara Street, Utica Street and Fillmore Avenue corridors.
Buffalo Main Streets Initiative
Renovating buildings and enhancing public space is crucial to successfully revitalizing historic business districts and mixed-use neighborhoods in and around downtown Buffalo.
Grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 are available for 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, Bailey, Broadway/Fillmore, Chippewa Street, East Delavan, Elmwood Village, Fillmore/MLK, Grant/Amherst, Grant/Ferry, Hertel, Jefferson Avenue, Kaisertown, Lovejoy, Lower Niagara/Lakeview, Main Street, Seneca-Caz, South Park, Tonawanda/Ontario, Upper Niagara Street and Connecticut Street corridors.
Jeff Belt, Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and president of SolEpoxy, said: “With targeted grants funding mixed-use development projects, the Better Buffalo Fund is revitalizing Buffalo’s commercial corridors and bringing residents back to the city’s neighborhoods. With the first two rounds of funding already strengthening our communities, the third round will further help to secure Buffalo’s economic future.”
Dr. Virginia Horvath, Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and President of the State University of New York at Fredonia said, “Without strong neighborhood centers and the enhanced quality of life offered by the Better Buffalo Fund, the Buffalo Billion cannot reach its full potential. Governor Cuomo deserves credit for the comprehensive approach that he has taken to economic development that is inclusive of all residents of Buffalo.”
Senator Tim Kennedy said, “As our city experiences an unprecedented resurgence, the Better Buffalo Fund continues to provide an important and necessary focus on smart growth. We want there to be connectivity between the places where people work, live and spend their leisure time. A well-planned strategy will result in vibrant neighborhoods that provide safe places for our families. This initiative is playing a vital role in the revitalization of the City of Buffalo.”
Senator Chris Jacobs said, “Our neighborhoods are the backbone of our city. Investments such as this will increase economic development activity that will have a direct positive impact on the lives of the residents in our community.”
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “People moving back into the city limits combined with thoughtful planning and development through Governor Cuomo’s Better Buffalo Fund is resulting in neighborhoods that are walkable, user-friendly, more efficient and better connected to the jobs being created for Western New Yorkers. I look forward to the next round of projects which are sure to contribute to the region’s overall smart growth strategy.”
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “The Better Buffalo Fund is a tremendous tool that helps small businesses and nonprofit groups boost their presence along public transit corridors in the City of Buffalo, while improving our urban neighborhoods. Thirty-five Buffalo businesses and community organizations have received more than $20 million in financing in the first two rounds. I encourage interested businesses and nonprofits to attend the City’s public information session on the application process, which will be held on Wednesday, December 20th, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Frank E. Merriweather Library, located at 1324 Jefferson Avenue.”
Jason Yots, President, Common Bond Real Estate said, “Historic rehabilitation projects can face higher-than-normal costs, often related to unforeseen conditions that developers discover as they move through the construction process. The Better Buffalo Fund loan helped our project remain feasible, despite those challenges. In that way, the program helped us fill the type of funding gaps that can hinder adaptive reuse projects in emerging markets like Buffalo.”
Applications are due by February 1, 2018 at 4 p.m.