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IDA HAS IDEAS FOR DEVELOPING OLDER PARTS OF TOWN

Better zoning, more tax incentives and low-interest loans are just some of the avenues the Amherst Industrial Development Agency is pursuing to promote redevelopment in older sections of the town.

Agency officials also are working with the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning on ways to improve the looks of those decaying commercial corridors, liven up the streetscape and enhance pedestrian access to make them more appealing.

However, there are some impediments, agency executive director James Allen told the Town Board Monday.

"There is an appetite for redevelopment out there," Allen said. "There are some nice things we can do, but with the town's current codes it wouldn't be as nice as it could be."

Those efforts, he said, would be limited by the town's current zoning ordinances, which discourage the purchase and renovation of existing vacant properties in Eggertsville, Snyder and Williamsville, because it would cost developers too much to bring them up to code.

Gary Black, the town's assistant planning director, echoed Allen's sentiments, noting that the adoption of a new zoning ordinance is going to be key to successfully promoting redevelopment of those older commercial corridors.

"We don't know what the market is yet until we get the codes out of the way," Black said.

Those changes will eventually be addressed in the town's 20-year comprehensive master plan. In addition, town officials are pursuing incentives, such as amicro-loan program and various tax incentives that would result in reduced assessment values for commercial properties in targeted areas of the town.

Town Supervisor Susan J. Grelick said these actions are vital in the effort to save the town's remaining green spaces to promote interest in redeveloping the town's older commercial corridors.

"Our comprehensive master plan does not assume endless development of greenfields in Amherst," said Grelick. "Sustaining and revitalizing the town's oldest areas by identifying incentives to promote investment remains our top priority."

The Amherst IDA already has begun working with a number of grass-roots organizations, including the Eggertsville Community Organization and Harlem-Kensington-Cleveland Business Association, on improving streetscapes and pedestrian access to these corridors.

It also has developed a partnership with the UB School of Architecture and Planning and its graduate students, who have come up with various design concepts for key intersections in Eggertsville, including those at Eggert Road and Bailey Avenue, Six Corners, and Eggert and Main. The designs include traffic calming measures to promote a more neighborhood feel, improved pedestrian access and a deemphasis on automobile traffic.

Hiro Hata, a professor at the School of Architecture and Planning, said the concepts embrace the traditional concept of urbanism.

"Neighborhoods bring people together," Hata said. "The town is for people. Without a sense of neighborhoods, there is no town."

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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