Four communities in Western New York will receive up to $2.5 million in state funding apiece to enhance their assets and help dress up their streetscapes to attract new businesses, residents and tourists.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the funding during a news conference Wednesday in North Tonawanda.
North Tonawanda was one of the recipients of four grants from the state's Smart Growth Community Funds. The grants go for projects aimed at using existing infrastructure to support projects that enhance walkability and sustainable development.
The three other places getting the grants included Lackawanna, Gowanda and Dunkirk.
According to the governor, "Buffalo Billion funding is establishing accessible, vibrant and sustainable communities across the entire region."
"Through this initial round of the Smart Growth Community Fund, we are encouraging the growth of new businesses, restaurants and green space that will help attract young workers, build prosperity and further fuel the renaissance of Western New York," Cuomo stated.
The Smart Growth Community Funds follows two rounds of the Better Buffalo Fund, which provided funding from the Buffalo Billion for the Buffalo Main Streets Initiative and Transit-Oriented Development. In the last two years, the fund has provided more than $20 million in state money for projects in Buffalo.
"It's through this type of funding that we've been able to take care of our downtown section, mainly Webster Street, where the (Riveria) Theater is and many of the new restaurants and businesses are down there," North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas said.
Possible uses of the grant in North Tonawanda include streetscape and pedestrian enhancements on Webster and Main streets, and funding for improvements at Gateway Harbor, including new public restrooms, upgraded electrical utilities to docks, new park picnic areas and lighting.
"In the whole overall picture, as the governor stated, we're trying to move some of the momentum and pluses that have gone on in the bigger cities, such as Buffalo," Pappas said. "These small grants now are going towards your smaller cities to kind of do the same thing at their size level. It is working. We're seeing that happening in North Tonawanda, and I'm sure the other recipients feel the same about their communities."
Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Syzmanski hopes to see ornate, stamped concrete paths at the intersections of Ridge Road, South Park and Electric avenues, and a decorative path between the Botanical Gardens and Our Lady of Victory Basilica.
"You go to other upscale areas and you see that they have those kind of stamped concrete crosswalks, and they really look sharp," Syzmanski said.
"We're also looking at a multi-use property in which we can have retail on the first floor and residential on the second and possibly third floors," he said.
The aim is to attract upscale retail outlets and residential tenants to the city's downtown area, Syzmanski said.