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A $4 million federal aid package has been set aside to help redevelop the ailing Central Park Plaza on Buffalo's east side, Rep. Jack Quinn (R-30th District) announced Friday.

The Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. will receive a $1 million grant and $3 million of Section 108 loan funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to acquire and renovate the 270,000-square-foot plaza, Quinn said.

Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello said he is thrilled with the federal government's decision to infuse capital into what is "a very large piece of land in a very important neighborhood."

"I'm ecstatic about the rewarding of our request. This money will go a long way towards transforming an antiquated retail park into something that not only fits economically, but improves the quality of life in the community," Masiello said.

The plaza is owned by Central Park Plaza Associates, a group of New York City investors, but it is for sale, according to BERC President Alan DeLisle.

Calls to the Central Park Plaza's local property manager were unanswered.

The city's main economic development agency still needs to work out details on whether it would acquire the property, enter into a partnership agreement with a development company, or work on a redevelopment plan with the current owners, DeLisle said.

"We don't know how this money will be applied because we don't have a specific plan yet, but we are happy to have the resources set aside for something that could turn out to be very positive," DeLisle said. "What's going to be important is a real strong community dialogue to figure out what the best vision for that plaza will be."

The aging plaza, near the corner of Fillmore Avenue and Main Street, was once an inner city shopping hub with 45 stores. The city's economic decline and rising neighborhood crime drove stores from the plaza over the last decade and it is now almost half empty.

Masten District Council Member Antoine M. Thompson said his early ideas include turning the property into a mixed-use development, with new office space which could provide jobs for neighborhood residents.

"One of my recommendations is going to be that we keep a retail component, but scale it down," Thompson said.

The land is in the city's "Empire Zone," which means businesses there can qualify for a wide range of property tax abatements, discounted utilities rates and other state economic development incentives.


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