Three Southern Tier communities in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties are working with advisers from University at Buffalo to create their own revitalization plans with likely state funding, as Western New York’s regional economic development council tries to broaden its reach by turning its attention to outlying areas.
With technical assistance and other help from UB’s Regional Institute, community leaders in Dunkirk and Fredonia are collaborating to strengthen the city and village by concentrating investment on the Central Avenue corridor that connects them. That three-mile roadway links downtown Dunkirk and the Lake Erie waterfront at Chadwick Bay to the State University of New York College at Fredonia and the historic village center, including the Barker Commons park.
The goal is to target both public- and private-sector dollars towards redevelopment projects in the historic neighborhood district along Central itself, as well as in the Dunkirk business district, the village center and the lakefront – in much the same way as in Buffalo and now in Niagara Falls.
“This is a big deal for us. It has a lot of people talking,” Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said during the Regional Economic Development Council meeting Monday.
Meanwhile, UB and regional leaders are also supporting a brand identity strategy for Salamanca, in conjunction with both the city and the nearby Seneca Nation. The theme, centered around “Making Salamanca,” is geared to help the community envision not only how it sees itself but how it communicates that externally to build up its image.
As with Dunkirk and Fredonia, the mission is to capitalize on Salamanca’s history, natural resources, its Native American ties and artisan products, and its unique geographic location sandwiched on Seneca territory along the Allegheny River next to Allegany State Park.
“They are poised to be very successful,” said Paul Ray, associate director of operations for the Regional Institute, who is leading the charge for UB. “This is just a starting point for them for the future.”
The partnerships with UB are part of an effort by the Regional Economic Development Council to provide “technical” help to smaller communities that lack the staffing, skills and other resources to participate effectively in the state’s highly competitive Consolidated Funding Application process.
UB staff helped by preparing technical, design and framework documents to guide the efforts. In all, the two communities submitted four applications through the regional council for various state economic development funds to renovate buildings, grow businesses and enhance public infrastructure. Ray said three projects are ready for funding, while two future projects are winding through the pipeline for longer-term support. “This was some of the most fulfilling work we’ve done,” he said.
For example, Salamanca is seeking funding to renovate or update the 158-year-old former Dudley Hotel at 132 Main St., a jewelry store building at 85 Main, the Nies Block Apartments at 67 Main, a collection of buildings at 54-64 Main and the sprawling brick Salamanca Antique Mall building at 100 Main. Each need improvements such as facades, roofs, windows, awnings and signage.
In Fredonia, officials want to use state money to enhance historic Barker Commons, in conjunction with the State Historic Preservation Office. Meanwhile, their neighbors to the north are seeking to redesign the Dunkirk Pier – now mostly used by fisherman – into more of a waterfront park like Buffalo’s Canalside, with concerts, a children’s play area, walking paths, Adirondack chairs, large-scale games, interpretive maritime and “wayfinding” signs, and new lighting.
“Five years from now, you won’t even recognize Chautauqua County. This is transformational,” Horrigan said.