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Reopening Main Street to traffic stalls <br> State's budget woes delay funding for project's next phase

Chalk up another victim of the state's budget problems: the effort to restore cars to Main Street in downtown Buffalo.

The $8 million plan to restore through traffic to the 600 block of Main Street -- including the Theater District -- has hit a snag, as the money needed to continue the preparatory work is being held up by Albany's budget problems.

Work on the block was slated to begin this fall but might now be delayed until next spring, as the design work hasn't even started. It can't proceed without the federal funds that are being funneled to Buffalo through Albany, Buffalo Place Planning Manager Debra L. Chernoff told the nonprofit group's directors at the organization's monthly board meeting Wednesday.

She said she still hopes the project can proceed on schedule, but she is not completely confident.

"Everything is done, except the money is tied up," Chernoff said. "The funding is in place. We're talking about cash flow."

This is the latest stage of the larger effort to restore traffic on the decades-old pedestrian mall on Main Street south of Tupper Street, an area that businesses say has suffered without easy car access to stores. The 700 block already has been opened back up for vehicle traffic, and the project is to proceed one block at a time down Main Street so as to minimize the overall disruption.

The project is largely being paid for by the federal government, but that money first goes through the state, which is conserving its cash to get through its own budget crisis.

Also during the meeting, Buffalo Place directors, largely downtown developers, heard an update from Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau officials on plans for renovating the Convention Center. The plans include upgrading floors, carpets, walls, lighting and the exterior facade to make the facility more competitive and address long-standing concerns about the quality of the venue.

In other matters:

*The conversion of 501 Main St. into a pair of loft apartments by Don Warfe is nearly completed and scheduled for move-in in April, while Roger Trettle's combination of 500 Washington St. and 523 Main St. into the Cornucopia Building has been approved by the city Preservation Board and will be considered next week by the city Planning Board.

*Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza has ended its season. More than 40 public, private or charter schools rented the facility for special events during the winter. "It's really been a whiz-bang season, doing what it's supposed to do," said Buffalo Place board President Anthony Colucci III.

*The Downtown Country Market is scheduled to kick off its 28th season in May, to last 24 weeks.

*Officials are wrapping up sponsorship coordination for the Summer Concert Series and will announce the musical events shortly.


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