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Park federal aid here Mayor's push for help with ramp could benefit Statler, downtown

Before Buffalo can find anybody willing to park upward of $70 million in the rehabilitation of the downtown Statler Hotel, it is going to have to help find a place for the investors to park their cars.

The Statler is not the only downtown property where expensive redevelopment, or simply finding tenants for existing office space, has been made more difficult by a lack of parking space. The managers of the Main Place and Liberty Buildings have complained that a lack of available parking downtown has discouraged prospective tenants, and it has to be a factor for the would-be redevelopers of other properties as they do the math on whether their plans will pay.

There is no single cure for this problem. Increased promotion and use of public transit -- buses and the train -- would help. So, perhaps, would a reorganization of the nonprofit group that runs the city-owned downtown parking ramps.

But the short answer to a shortage of parking is more slots. That's the proper goal of Mayor Byron W. Brown, who is seeking a mix of private investment and federal funding to build a $35 million combined office building and parking ramp on one of the few vacant spots left in the Niagara Square area.

Downtown restaurateur and developer Mark Croce is eyeing the project, and Brown has gone to Washington to ask for $7 million in federal funds to help get the effort off the ground.

The idea is for a building that's maybe 11 stories of parking ramp, offering 900 public access spaces, topped by four stories of office space. It would be near enough to the Statler to help sell wavering investors -- if we can find anyone who's even that interested -- on the possibilities of filling the space with paying tenants.

The proposal is a proper use of federal dollars, at a time when stimulating short-term job creation and long-term infrastructure improvements remains Washington's worthy goal. It would be a fair contribution to a project that would still be funded, mostly, by private dollars.

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