NIAGARA FALLS – A group of Pine Avenue business owners have formed a new business group, the Pine Avenue Redevelopment Project.
Many of its 12 board of directors members were part of the former Pine Avenue Business Association, which disbanded in 2009 as membership waned and funds for health insurance were mishandled, leading to the resignation of its paid director.
"This is a completely new group. It's completely separate from the Pine Avenue Business Association," said Michael Capizzi, co-owner of Michael's Restaurant and president of Cataract Realty, who is president of the new business group. "That was the past and for whatever reason that didn't work. But at one time there was over 400 members."
Capizzi said this group has a back to basics mission – "a group of concerned business owners trying to bring back attention to the street."
"It's a start over policy," said Capizzi. "The PABA name's tarnished and we want to stay different from them."
Capizzi said Pine Avenue is over two miles long and the group's focus will be on making it a clean, safe and walkable business district. The stretch has long been designated as the city's "Little Italy."
The newly appointed board was approved at a meeting on Dec. 8 at the Cristoforo Colombo Society Hall. A membership drive will begin in January. Those who are interested can contact the board at firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents can join for $25 and businesses for $75. There is no staff and all the funds are used for expenses.
He said the new business group will give members a voice with the city administration and way to lobby for city, county, state and federal funds. PARP will welcome residents on the side streets as well as business members who are interested in improving the street.
"The street is vibrant," said Capizzi. "A lot of us are doing the right thing, but we want to band together."
He said three or four of the new trustees are former PABA presidents and/or owners of iconic businesses. Together they have centuries of business experience, said Capizzi.
Capizzi said members of the board of directors have already donated their own money to light up Columbus Park, to buy a holiday sign and to light up the pocket park on 29th Street.
Other directors on the board are: Vice President Tony Poletti, Marketside Restaurant; Secretary Sylvia Virtuoso, Guido's Upholstery; Treasurer Anthony Brindisi, Keller Insurance Group; and directors John Accardo, Accardo Agency; Louie Antonacci, the Como Restaurant; Mark Delmonte, Niagara Chiropractic; James Fernandez, George Optical; Chris Finitz, DeFranco Hardware; Ernie Lucantonio, Cristoforo Colombo Society; Krystal Smolinski, Tattler's Lane; and Kim Wisor, Northwest Bank.