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Norstar Development USA received $4.2 million in tax-exempt bond financing Thursday to begin renovation of a run-down housing project in Niagara Falls.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency board approved the bond issue as part of the funding for the $8.6 million first phase of the makeover of Unity Park II on Ninth Street.

Norstar also has an agreement with the IDA to develop land around Niagara Falls International Airport if the IDA takes it over.

Linda L. Goodman, director of project development for Norstar, said the company has yet to formally acquire Unity Park from the Empire State Development Corp., which foreclosed on the previous owner's mortgage. Rents in the project are state-subsidized.

"Empire State Development has designated us as the developer," Goodman said.

The first phase of the plan, expected to begin in the spring, calls for renovating 40 of the existing 198 units while demolishing six buildings at the site.

Goodman said only 80 apartments are now occupied in Unity Park II, and those affected by the work will be moved to other apartments in that complex or in nearby Unity Park I.

The overall two-phase redevelopment is estimated to cost $20 million. Goodman said there will be 112 units by the time the work is done.

Goodman said Norstar is also negotiating to buy another Ninth Street housing complex, the Apple Walk apartments, from its current owner, the Finch Group.

In other action Thursday, the IDA board approved the agency's 2003 budget, which projects spending of $1.1 million, down about $137,000 from this year.

Niagara Falls School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto, an agency board member, questioned including $55,000 for marketing and promotion of the airport as both a revenue and an expense.

IDA Executive Director John R. Simon said the IDA is committed to promoting the airport if its effort to take over the facility from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority succeeds. He said the $55,000 is to be funded with revenues the airport would take in.

"That's part of the business plan," said County Legislator Renae Kimble, president of the Niagara Airport Development Corp., the entity set up by the IDA to take control of the airport.

On another topic, the board approved two loans to Falls businesses from its Microenterprise Assistance Program.

Jenkins & Jenkins Janitorial is to receive a $25,000 loan to buy a Jani-King International franchise, a vehicle and equipment.

McWilson Beauty Salon, which received a $15,000 loan in August, will have that increased to $25,000. IDA Finance Manager Gary E. Kelsey said the company's building renovation project has cost more than expected.


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