Plans for a new West Side Bazaar are getting a significant boost from KeyBank.
Key, in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation, is contributing $1.5 million to the project, which will see the bazaar move to a larger building on Niagara Street.
The Westminster Economic Development Initiative, which runs the bazaar, is conducting a $7.5 million capital campaign for the project. About $6 million of that will be devoted to renovating a property at 1432 Niagara St., north of West Delavan Avenue. WEDI hopes to have the new bazaar open in late 2022.
The current bazaar, at 25 Grant St., has grown into a thriving community hub, said Carolynn Welch, WEDI's executive director.
"It's really crazy to see all of the blogs and the different things about traveling to Buffalo now include, 'take a stop at the West Side Bazaar,' " she said.
The bazaar opened a decade ago to help economically disadvantaged businesses get off the ground in an incubator setting. Many of the businesses are run by immigrants and refugees.
But at 3,200 square feet, its current home has limitations.
"One of the biggest barriers that we face is we have a lot of service industries that might want to come in and open up shop," Welch said. "We have about 40 businesses on our wait list, and about 10% of those are service industries that we are not able to accommodate in our current space."
The limited capacity also affects businesses trying to establish themselves so that they can move into their own space, Welch said.
"When our business owners are working to build their capital, they're really limited by the number of customers they are able to serve," she said.
At 16,000 square feet – five times larger than the current location – the Niagara Street building will afford the businesses more room to grow, she said. "The larger location will allow them to build capacity faster." There will be space for 24 restaurant, retail and service businesses.
The new location will also allow the bazaar to host more events and services, including financial education programs, Welch said.
Key and the First Niagara Foundation have supported WEDI's objectives over the years, said Elizabeth Gurney, Key's director of corporate philanthropy and executive director of the First Niagara Foundation. "Their mission is removing systemic barriers to economic equity for Western New Yorkers, and that's really important to us."
The $1.5 million contribution is part of Key's $40 billion National Community Benefits Plan, which covers the bank's territories across the country.
Fundraising for the new bazaar continues, said Erin St. John Kelly, WEDI's director of external relations. "We’ve raised approximately $3 million to date and have numerous discussions underway with government, corporate, foundation and community leaders who are eager to lend their support to this catalytic project for the future of Buffalo."