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Landlords in Main Street sector eligible for Buffalo Place grants

Landlords in a targeted area of Main Street in Buffalo can now apply for matching grants from Buffalo Place to help them fix up the facades, storefronts and upper floors of older and vacant buildings.

The grants from a $300,000 fund, part of the state’s New York Main Street program, are designed to support a mixture of building renovations and streetscape enhancements such as benches and trash cans, with up to $262,500 allotted for the first category and an additional $15,000 for the second. The rest is for overhead.

Buffalo Place, the downtown business-improvement district, believes that it can cover six projects with the money, depending on how it is allocated, said Debra L. Chernoff, manager of planning. Eligible buildings must be located on Main, the east side of Pearl Street or the west side of Washington Street, between Court Street and Lafayette Square to the south and Huron Street to the north.

The deadline for applications is March 7. An advisory committee will review the proposals and make selections, which must also be approved by state environmental and historic preservation officials. Work must be completed by November 2017.

At least 16 property owners have expressed interest. “We have a lot of demand,” Chernoff said. “The goal is to finish as soon as possible, so we can reapply.” Funds can be used for “soft costs” and capital, but not for furniture or fixtures. Property owners must submit receipts for reimbursement after they pay contractors. State rules allow for a maximum of $50,000 for commercial exterior work or $25,000 for direct residential unit construction for affordable housing, with a maximum of $100,000 per property.

However, “I don’t see us getting up that high,” Chernoff said. “If we did that, we could close out funding with four grants, and I think the advisory committee wants to touch more properties than that.”

This is Buffalo Place’s third allocation from the state program, which supports revitalization of downtown business districts. Previous rounds included $200,000 for four projects in the 500 block of Main from 2007 to 2010 and $500,000 for 11 in the Theatre District in 2015.