Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Seneca Buffalo Creek Development Advisory Board on Monday outlined a grant application process for $1 million in projects designed to boost infrastructure, landscaping, lighting and signage in areas around the downtown Buffalo casino.
According to a news release, the process announced Monday is the result of nine months of work and a series of board meetings that involved input and guidance from stakeholders such as the Seneca Nation Council; Erie County; the City of Buffalo; the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority; Seneca Gaming Corp.; the Seneca Nation Planning Department; the Old First Ward Community Association; the Valley Community Association; the South Buffalo Chamber of Commerce; Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.; HSBC; the Oishei Foundation, and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
“This whole process was a breath of fresh air in terms of good people coming together to create beneficial opportunities for the neighborhoods around our Buffalo Creek Casino,” said President Robert Odawi Porter. “We’ve all gained from this process, but the real winners will be the thousands of people who live here and others who will visit the waterfront and nearby neighborhoods over the next few years.”
On May 31, 2011, President Porter and Seneca Gaming Corp. Chairman Karen Karsten announced the $1 million allocation to fund the initiative. The money, from Seneca Gaming, directly results from a series of community meetings held in late 2010 and early 2011 between Nation leaders and waterfront, Old First Ward, Erie County and Buffalo stakeholders to create the board. The money is designed as a resource for casino neighbors, nearby developers, residents and businesses.
The arrangement is another Nation partnership that benefits areas around its casino territories.
“We have a vested interest in the long-term future of the Inner Harbor area and are committed to playing an active role, along with our neighbors, in helping to shape that future,” Chairman Karsten said. “Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino is one piece of the overall development movement taking place in downtown Buffalo. With this fund and these partnerships, we will be able to expand our impact beyond the visitors and business generated at our casino property.”
The process announced today will govern the grant applications and awards. Grants will be a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $100,000 awarded after competency and relevancy review by the board.
Grants, which must impact an area of the waterfront the board members defined, will be evaluated for geographic, design and collaborative values, among other factors. Applications will be accepted now through March 31. Applicants can contact Cathy Leggett, Seneca Gaming Corp., 716-501-2494, CLeggett@senecacasinos.com or obtain an application at www.senecagamingcorporation.com.
The board agreed on a two-tier selection process that will provide an opportunity for quantitative and qualitative assessments. A streamlined scoring template will be used to initially evaluate each application.
If the application meets all eligibility requirements and scores a certain amount of points based on the board’s guiding principles, the applicants will be invited to present their project proposal to the board. Following each group’s presentation, the board will discuss the merits of the proposal and decide by consensus whether or not to recommend funding the project.
The group’s aim for the Seneca Gaming grants, which will last until the funding is exhausted, will be to use the money in a manner consistent with existing community plans. Municipalities will not be eligible and board members applying will recuse themselves from the evaluation process.
The Seneca Nation and Seneca Gaming have refocused their efforts to develop a new Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. The corporation has been working with the Hnedak Bobo Group, an award-winning Memphis-based architecture and interior design firm, to develop a master plan for a new gaming venue. Working in conjunction with Buffalo-based BHNT Architects, Hnedak Bobo and Seneca Gaming officials have held several meetings with neighborhood representatives to discuss how a new casino can best complement surrounding development efforts in the Inner Harbor area.
“The dialogue we have had to date has been tremendously helpful to our planning process for the new casino,” said Rob Chamberlain, senior vice president of design & construction, Seneca Gaming Corp. “As we continue our work on developing a new vision for the Nation’s Buffalo Creek territory, having a better understanding of what is being planned around us will ultimately lead to a better project – one that we hope will help elevate the Inner Harbor as a popular and robust destination in Western New York.”
The casino, located on 9.5 acres of sovereign territory on Michigan Avenue, is within half a mile of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.’s resurrection of the Erie Canal terminus; it is close to the Old First Ward neighborhood, the Cobblestone District and the Buffalo River; it borders the Perry Choice Neighborhood, where a major redevelopment effort is underway; and its neighbors include HSBC Arena and the Buffalo Sabres; HSBC’s back office building; the Buffalo News; the Buffalo Bisons’ Coca Cola Field; the soon-to-be redeveloped Donovan Office Building; and HSBC Center.
The neighborhood has a residential mix that ranges from public housing to upscale lofts.
“This effort is a microcosm of the Nation’s philosophy that what’s good for the Seneca Nation is good for Western New York, and the reverse,” said Michael Kimelberg, the Nation’s planning director. “We have more than 6,000 employees and a $1.1 billion economy and we all want to see those numbers grow – to everyone’s mutual benefit. When we improve the look and feel and amenities of this Buffalo neighborhood, we’ll attract more jobs, more housing development, more entertainment options and everyone will benefit.”