Main Street will get its long-awaited Trolley Stop Park by the end of the year, and leaders of the struggling North End commercial district hope it will be not just a symbol but a concrete signal on the road to rebirth.
Tuesday, the City Council will be asked to award a contract for the first phase of construction being funded by the Community Development Department. Groundbreaking already has been scheduled for Sept. 17, according to Elizabeth J. DiChiara, president of the Main Street Business Association. Work is to begin immediately.
Eventually, the business association hopes Main Street will rebound to the vital business district it once was and that traffic will warrant the addition of a trolley to transport people up and down the street and link it to other parts of the city.
The park represents a hard-won victory for the group, which started nearly 10 years ago lobbying the city to demolish two vacant, derelict buildings between Cleveland and South avenues. Approval for the city to acquire the buildings at 1919 and 1921 Main was given in 1995 and the buildings finally came down last year.
A commitment to the project was made by the administration of former Mayor Jacob A. Palillo, according to Larry Krizan, community development director.
"Since it didn't move, somehow the funds were transferred out. It was during this administration that the funds were transferred back in," Krizan said.
"We've been working very hard to get grants," Mrs. DiChiara said. "We have a commitment of $148,000. The important thing is for people to recognize the board is working very diligently and we're really determined to get Main Street back. I think it's going to happen. This is the signature project of the overall Main Street plan."
Faery's Landscaping of Ransomville submitted the low bid of $50,665 for grading the two lots and installing drainage, topsoil, brick paver walkways, underground electrical conduit and concrete foundations for light pole bases, according to Robert J. Antonucci, community development project administrator.
Mrs. DiChiara said the business association received a $34,000 grant from the Niagara County Environmental Fund and $1,000 from Niagara Falls Redevelopment, which will be used for park benches, an iron fence, decorative light standards, trees and flower beds. Frank Brzezenski, an urban planner and landscape architect who is a member of the association, donated his time to design the plan.
"We're going to use plants native to the area, such as black-eyed Susans," Mrs. DiChiara said. "Through the Niagara Council of the Arts we received a $100 fund from Fleet Bank for a children's garden to be planted by the 4-H Club. It will be an educational type park for children's groups going through to look at various flowers.
"We really think by having something like this it will clean up the area and be a catalyst for Main St. It brings attention to the success of the Main Street Business Association, fosters environmental cleanup, education and restorations."
The Community Development Department set aside $100,000 in 1997 for Main Street public improvements.
While the business association has hustled to increase its membership from 20-something to 100, it also has worked with the Center City Neighborhood Development Corp. on strategic planning. This summer the two groups held a series of forums to get input from the public on what Main Street should look like in the future.
"We sent out 600 surveys three weeks ago and another 2,500 are due to go out over the next few weeks," said Carolyn A. Van Schaik, executive director of Center City, a nonprofit agency dedicated to improving housing opportunities for the residents in that part of town.
"We are getting a pretty good response so far," she said. "We want as much input as possible in the planning effort, hoping that it will help us when we go out and hunt for funding."