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Better Buffalo Fund seeks proposals for projects near public transportation

The state is seeking proposals for the second round of funding from the Better Buffalo Fund, a $30 million Buffalo Billion program aimed at revitalizing neighborhoods within the city and encouraging housing, retail and business projects near public transportation.

The fund, which awarded $11.7 million to 21 projects in its first round of awards last April, is focused entirely on areas within the City of Buffalo and is targeting community-development initiatives that range in size from as little as $50,000 to as much as $2 million.

The idea is to encourage development along public transportation corridors that can spur retail and neighborhood-oriented businesses, along with the development of public spaces and walkways, state officials said Tuesday.

The initiative is intended to strengthen major Buffalo residential neighborhoods along corridors served by public transportation so that growth in one area could spill over to other nearby neighborhoods.

Applications for grants and loans offered through the Better Buffalo Fund now are available through the Empire State Development Corp. website and will be accepted through March 28.

“This money connects the employment opportunities created by the Buffalo Billion to neighborhood centers throughout Buffalo,” Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said. “Without strong neighborhood centers and the enhanced quality of life offered by this funding commitment, the Buffalo Billion cannot reach its full potential.”

The biggest part of the fund is for transit-oriented development projects that are aimed at encouraging growth along existing transportation corridors and encourage the use of alternative transportation and walkability, state officials said.

The fund, administered by Empire State Development, offers up to $2 million in gap financing for those projects, which would encourage dense development, such as housing, employment and retail, within a quarter-mile walking distance of Metro Bus and Metro Rail stops on Bailey and Fillmore avenues and Grant, Main, Niagara and Utica streets.

The second part of the fund, called the Buffalo Main Streets Initiative, is targeted toward the revitalization of historic business districts and mixed-use neighborhood commercial districts. The initiative offers grants of $50,000 to $500,000 to nonprofit and neighborhood business associations for building renovations and public space enhancements in targeted areas.

The Buffalo Main Streets Initiative focuses in these city commercial corridors: Allentown, Bailey, Broadway/Fillmore, Chippewa Street, East Delavan Avenue, Elmwood Village, Fillmore/Martin Luther King, Grant/Amherst, Grant/Ferry, Hertel, Jefferson Avenue, Kaisertown, Lovejoy, Lower Niagara/Lakeview, Main Street, Seneca-Cazenovia, South Park, Tonawanda/Ontario and upper Niagara Street.

That portion of the fund is expected to support projects that will improve the infrastructure in those targeted areas and support private development.

“Nice, well-functioning neighborhoods located an easy commute away from well-paying jobs add up to a better Buffalo, which is what this fund is all about creating,” said Assemblyman Michael Kearns, D-Buffalo, in a statement. “The investment in transportation results in employment for people who may not be able to afford a car and provides a way for residents to get to educational opportunities that will lead to greater career opportunities.”