Millions For Downtown Development

January 20, 2012 Updated Jan 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Millions For Downtown Development

January 20, 2012 Updated Jan 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Buffalo Niagara Partnership on Friday released the results of the year-long Buffalo Building Reuse Project to improve the competitiveness of downtown Buffalo by attracting new investment and establishing a development process and structure for long term sustainability.

In December 2010, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown requested the Partnership to assemble experienced business leaders and economic development professionals to study the oversupply of commercial office space in downtown Buffalo. More than 30 volunteer local experts collaborated to build recommendations for maximizing future investment in downtown Buffalo.

“A vibrant downtown is good for business activity throughout the region,” Andrew J. Rudnick, President  & CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership said in a news release. “The Buffalo Building Reuse Project is all about clearing the way for private sector investors to complete redevelopment projects and increase downtown’s competitiveness for 21st century commercial, residential, and retail use.”

Significantly based on ‘best practice’ experiences in peer cities, the report’s principal recommendations are:

• Designating a lead entity for downtown Buffalo development - the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation – with increased downtown specific resources (staff, loans, grants, etc.)

• Creating a dedicated funding stream and utilizing effective tools (improve existing, establish new) to encourage redevelopment investments through project loans, matching grants, and gap financing and to improve downtown public infrastructure and amenities

• Implementing a housing in-fill strategy to transition class ‘B’ and ‘C’ commercial properties into residential use as the initial focus

In direct response to the BBRP report, Mayor Byron Brown announced that he is committing $11.25 million in new funds over a three-year period to help implement the BBRP recommendations. These funds supplement $4 million recently awarded by New York State through the Regional Economic Development Council process, and $23 million in federal money for the Cars on Main Street project. These funds will be used to invest in improved public infrastructure, project financing and staff expertise. Additional funding will be sought from foundations, private sector and utility companies.

The estimated direct economic impact of the BBRP recommendations is 700-1,500 jobs and $39-$78 million of investment over the next five years. Also anticipated is the absorption of 425,000-800,000 square feet of office space, the creation of 500,000-1,000,000 square feet of residential space and the improvement of 10 city blocks.

“I want to thank the many experienced stakeholders in Buffalo’s downtown community who volunteered their time and effort to take an in depth look at Buffalo’s urban core, and then developed well-coordinated strategic ways to make all downtown buildings more commercially competitive. As a result of their detailed report, I made a commitment of nearly $12 million today to support downtown projects and development over the next three years,” said Brown, who also noted that Buffalo recently secured an additional $19 million for economic development through state and federal grants. “The report released today recognizes that there is a strong demand for people to live Downtown. My hope is that the money I commit will leverage even more funding for Downtown from other public and private investors.”