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More economic-development funding for Buffalo Niagara region

Improvements to Niagara Street in Buffalo and redevelopment of the former sites of Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna and Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle were the top recipients of state economic-development funds announced for Western New York.

In all, the region was awarded $83.9 million for 125 projects under the latest round of funding from the state’s Regional Economic Development Council program. Ten regions across the state submitted “wish lists” of projects to support, and the state decided on the allocations. The funding awards were revealed Thursday in Albany during a presentation featuring Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The Western New York project that secured the most funds was the Niagara Street revitalization. In all, $2.44 million will go toward streetscape improvements such as trees, storm water-landscaping and traffic-calming measures from Porter Avenue to Ontario Street.

Next-highest on the list was $2.28 million for the former Bethlehem Steel site. Erie County requested the funds as part of a $10 million plan to acquire about 100 acres of brownfields along Route 5, which would then be cleaned up and turned into a shovel-ready industrial site.

Other top recipients of funding include:

• Gates Circle redevelopment – $2 million to support construction of roads and underground utilities. TM Montante plans to turn the site of the former hospital complex – part of which was imploded this year – into a mixed-use community.

• National Comedy Center project in Jamestown – $2.03 million, including to renovate the Erie-Lackawanna train station, and to build a new connecting building and a public plaza for other events.

• Chautauqua Harbor Hotel – $1.88 million to support creation of a 100-room “destination hotel” in Celeron, on Chautauqua Lake, aimed at boosting tourism.

• Scajaquada Creek restoration – $1.82 million to mitigate flooding and improve water quality between Main Street and Elmwood Avenue. The Buffalo Sewer Authority requested the funds.

• Erie County Low-Income Program for Sustainable Energy, or ECLIPSE – $1.5 million, to serve low- to moderate-income households.

• Alfred State College – $1.5 million for a biorefinery center. The Allegany County facility will help private firms scale up production of biorenewable materials and sustainable energy.

• Riviera Theatre – $1.2 million for renovation and expansion of the North Tonawanda venue, including 23,000 square feet of new space.

• University at Buffalo – $1 million to support the relocation of UB’s School of Social Work to its South Campus. The project includes restoring two historic buildings and constructing a new building.

The state also awarded $41 million to the region for low-cost economic-development financing, and $7.5 million for Excelsior jobs program tax credits.

Cuomo said the funds awarded statewide are “an investment that is going to stimulate business and growth.”

The Finger Lakes region was one of three areas statewide that each won a big prize: $500 million for their economic-development initiatives, spread across five years.

“This is a big thing for our county in that it will mean more money toward the STAMP project, along with funds for the Agri-Business Park in the Town of Batavia,” County Manager Jay A. Gsell said.

STAMP is an acronym for the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama. The town was awarded $1.5 million for new waterlines to support the park and nearby residents.

The 1,250-acre shovel-ready megasite recently gained its first tenant, 1366 Technologies, which will open a silicon wafer plant that is expected to employ as many as 1,000 people over the next few years.

The site has room for several more businesses since 1366 Technologies will only take about a seventh of its available space.

The Agri-Business Park received $500,000 for infrastructure improvements.

Cuomo compared the $500 million, five-year awards with the Buffalo Billion’s multiyear rollout. He said that only about half of the Buffalo Billion has spent, but has had two other important effects.

“It said you can plan the future and there is a funding stream in the future so you can go year to year,” Cuomo said. “And there was a shock and awe factor of the billion dollars, which said to the people in Buffalo, ‘Believe in the future and don’t dismiss this as just another government political plan, because it is different.’ ”

Genesee Correspondent Mike Pettinella contributed to this report. email: