In his State of the City speech Friday, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown rightly boasted of the economic progress that has occurred on his watch while taxes on commercial and residential property have been held down.
In one noteworthy announcement sure to be welcomed by downtown residents, Brown said Tops Markets will be opening a store as part of a larger project on Ellicott Street.
For many, this is a newly revitalized city. Its downtown is undergoing a makeover that is attracting visitors from the suburbs and beyond. Companies have seen opportunity, with the commercial tax rate lower than it is in surrounding communities and in other major upstate cities.
Brown’s announcement that the city’s tax rate will remain frozen, along with property tax assessments, makes 11 straight years in which the city’s residential and commercial property taxes have been either reduced or frozen, a remarkable achievement.
The mayor pointed to the roughly $6.1 billion of economic development over the past four years as evidence of the city’s progress. With development comes new opportunity, and Brown is demonstrating his faith with the city’s Opportunity Pledge, which encourages workplace diversity, equity and inclusion. He has met with hundreds of employers over the past year to convey the importance of companies and organizations maintaining workforce equity.
Despite all the building underway, the city remains weighed down by high poverty rates. Brown’s path to easing poverty emphasizes job training and readiness to go along with the new business. The city is allocating $4 million to the Northland Corridor redevelopment area in order to remove some blighted properties and support construction of a center that will provide advanced manufacturing and training. The city’s contribution is in addition to $44 million allocated to the project from the Buffalo Billion.
Other notable points:
• Ciminelli Development has been selected to redevelop a city-owned parking lot on Ellicott Street into an urban grocery store operated by Tops Markets. The project also includes a parking ramp, apartments or condominiums and public space.
• The city is selling a parcel of land on the waterfront to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which will make it the home for a carousel made in North Tonawanda in 1924. The return of the historic ride to Western New York after 66 years in storage will be a fine addition to the waterfront.
• The city has renovated and will reopen the former library on East Utica near Jefferson as the Beverly Gray Business Resources Center to help develop and grow minority and women-owned businesses.
• The mayor will continue his support of School Superintendent Kriner Cash’s “Educational bargain for students and parents” by providing 500 tablet computers to graduating Say Yes Scholars, in addition to providing other support.
The city has undergone amazing change for the better during Brown’s tenure. There are new jobs, new residences and new opportunities. The next target is ensuring that everyone is benefiting.
Buffalo is one of the nation’s poorest big cities. The mayor recognizes that there is still work to be done, and is taking steps. His record is one of steady stewardship that has improved the state of the city.