Local development officials are putting a priority on downtown revitalization.
From a realignment of the Metro Rail tracks near Canalside and funding for the National Comedy Center in Jamestown to a downtown farmers market in Olean, the wish list of projects seeking state money in a coming round of economic development funding is centered squarely on revitalizing the region’s city centers.
“Downtown revitalization was a focus,” said Jeffrey Belt, the co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.
The council on Monday approved 32 “priority projects” from the region, seeking funding from Empire State Development for projects valued at $75 million. The exact amount of state funding being requested for each project has not been decided yet. Additional funding also will be available from other state agencies and programs.
In all, nearly three of every five projects seeking funding as priority economic development projects in the sixth round of awards from the state’s Regional Economic Development Council program later this year are part of a downtown revitalization effort, said Christopher Schoepflin, the local council’s executive director.
It is unlikely that the projects will get all of the money they are seeking. In all, those projects will compete for between $10 million and $25 million in state funding from Empire State Development, plus funding from other state agencies and programs in a statewide competition that will culminate in an awards ceremony in Albany during December.
“We had a great volume of very good projects,” Belt said.
The council received 227 eligible applications for funding in the latest round, which were winnowed down to 32 “priority projects” that will compete for state money. Of the 32 projects, 14 are located in Erie County, while six each are from Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties and five are from Niagara County. A single project from Allegany County made the list.
The biggest project – valued at $42.7 million in all – is from the University at Buffalo for a medical simulation center at the new medical school that is being built on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The funding would purchase operating stations and other equipment to help train students as part of a project that includes medical device maker Medtronic.
The council also is backing a request for funding for a $28.1 million project by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to realign the Metro Rail tracks from Scott Street to the DL&W Terminal to allow better traffic flow and connectivity to Canalside and the waterfront.
The third-biggest request is for $20.4 million in gap funding for the National Comedy Center in Jamestown.
The council also is seeking funding for a $15.3 million expansion at Edelweiss Dairy that would allow the dairy farm in the Town of Freedom in Cattaraugus County to expand its herd by 700 cows and also build a new, more efficient milking facility.
The council also is seeking funding is the Richardson Center Corp., which is seeking state aid for a $10 million project to install virtual meeting technology at the conference facility that will be part of the complex.
The council’s recommendations now will be reviewed and rated by state officials. The state’s 10 development zones will compete later this year for funding – five regions will win $25 million apiece in ESD money, while five will win $10 million each.