Loans set for downtown projects - The Buffalo News
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Loans set for downtown projects

Wanted: Building owners who want to renovate their downtown Buffalo properties but need some money to do so.

Fresh off its first $750,000 loan, the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. is again taking applications for short-term improvement loans through its Buffalo Building Re-Use Project, designed to help small and mid-sized developers improve the central business district through adaptive reuse projects.

The city agency has $1 million available to lend for its second round of funding, with a maximum of $750,000 for any single project. Loans are for three to five years, with an interest rate equal to the prime rate plus 2 percentage points. Applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. June 20 to project coordinator Brandye Merriweather at BUDC.

The first $750,000 was loaned to TM Montante Development for its Planing Mill project at 141 Elm St. The $8 million mixed-use project, including 20 apartments and commercial space, needed “gap” financing awaiting state and federal tax credits, Merriweather said.

Merriweather told the landlord-heavy board of Buffalo Place, the downtown business improvement organization, that the city agency is also preparing to go to banks with a capital campaign this summer to raise more money for the revolving loan fund.

The fund started with $3 million provided by Empire State Development Corp. and allocated by Mayor Byron W. Brown to the Buffalo Building Re-use Project. Up to $1 million a year can be loaned out for three years, with two to three projects funded each year. Merriweather said the money is rolled into new projects as the loans are repaid.

Officials hope to expand the fund with an infusion from banks so they can handle more projects, she said.

Separately, work continues on various infrastructure projects on downtown Buffalo streets, including the Cars Sharing Main Street project to return two-way traffic to the artery.

New sidewalks have been constructed on the northwest and northeast corners of Main Street at Chippewa Street, and part of Chippewa is closed until Monday while a new concrete median is being poured between the northbound and southbound tracks at the intersection. Curbs and planters are being installed in the Fountain Plaza area of Main Street, with sidewalks to follow in the 500 block now that a new gas line has been installed.

And the “Plaza of Stars” – Buffalo’s version of a Theater Walk of Fame – will be created over the weekend in the Theater District on Main Street between the Metro Rail underground “portal” and Tupper Street. “We’re really moving quickly for construction,” said Buffalo Place planning manager Debra L. Chernoff.

City officials have applied for a $28 million federal transportation grant, which now must compete against 700 other applications. Results will be announced in the fall, but Buffalo Place officials calculate their odds at 15-to-1, Chernoff said. “It really is a very good fit,” she said.


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