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Editorial: Northland Corridor wins key funding as work on the project is about to begin

The important Northland Corridor project has received another boost that will help the transformative project meet its tight deadline.

It was already at least a $48 million project, with most of the funds coming from the state for the Western New York Workforce Training Center and another $4 million from the city for various infrastructure improvements.

At a recent Buffalo Urban Development Corp. meeting, Mayor Byron W. Brown announced receiving a $1.9 million Restore New York Communities Initiative program grant. The award gives the city additional money for demolition, infrastructure work, environmental remediation and building stabilization at three Northland buildings: 537 E. Delavan Ave., 777 Northland Ave. and 1681 Fillmore Ave.

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his economic development staff were looking for a location for a training center, Brown immediately pitched the Northland Avenue Corridor. It was an area the mayor had sought to redevelop for years. From the beginning, the mayor’s staff emphasized that workforce training would be the anchor of the development, but it would need to be much more. That developed into the concept of the Northland Corridor campus that is about to happen.

The $44 million training center is slated to occupy 100,000 square feet of the 235,000-square-foot complex at 683 Northland. The rest of the building will be renovated for other tenants or retail and community services. Buffalo Manufacturing Works has reportedly expressed interest in relocating to Northland.

Other parts of the Northland site are expected to become home to companies involved in light manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and green technology. Some of the workers at those companies are likely to learn their skills at the training center.

The goal is to attract those companies by continuing to pursue state and federal resources. The city is seeking historic preservation tax credits and brownfield cleanup tax credits for the Workforce Training Center project. Those public dollars will leverage private investment toward the anchor building at 683 Northland.

There is no time to lose. Officials hope to have the training center ready for students in the fall semester of 2018.

The mayor has been a staunch and vocal supporter of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion. And for good reason. Brown said the second phase of the Billion could pump nearly $150 million into the East Side, including the Northland Corridor.

The city’s years of preparation will hit the ground in March with the demolition of 537 E. Delavan Ave., the former Houdaille building.

Getting rid of the deteriorating structure, vacant for at least two decades, will be a huge psychological boost to the community. The building is enormous, and it has long been a sign of the neighborhood’s decay.

The plan also involves supporting infill housing, home repairs and community development, which is part of broader plans for the East Side.

Brown recently traveled to Albany and requested funds to help pay for some $21.6 million in improvements to Jefferson Avenue from Main to Division streets. The city also needs money for East Side housing, specifically 60 houses the city obtained from a recent foreclosure auction. The idea is solid; remove the properties from absentee landlords while helping neighborhood renters become homeowners.

Years of strategically stockpiling assets and resources are about to begin transforming a major piece of the East Side, bordered by Fillmore and East Delavan avenues, Grider Street and the Belt Line Railroad. Seeing progress at the Northland Corridor will validate the promise that the Buffalo Billion is reaching into long-neglected neighborhoods.

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