The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council is embracing growth and downtown redevelopment as core economic goals in its Strategy for Prosperity. Businesses are increasingly locating in or near vibrant, walkable downtowns built on the principles of smart growth because that's where the millennial workforce wants to live, work, and raise a family. Investments in existing downtowns also have been found to reduce local infrastructure and municipal service costs, thus helping to ease fiscal difficulties.
Four Western New York communities have been selected by the WNY Regional Economic Development Council and awarded by Governor Andrew Cuomo to receive up to $2.5 million in funding from the Buffalo Billion II initiative. The City of Dunkirk, City of North Tonawanda, City of Lackawanna and Village of Gowanda are recipients of Smart Growth Community Funds for projects that utilize existing infrastructure to support placemaking, walkable communities and sustainable development.
Empire State Development staff visited each of the four selected communities to discuss proposed projects and to better understand the locations and readiness of each project.
Recipients of the Western New York Smart Growth Community Fund are included with funding recommended by the Western New York REDC below:
City of Dunkirk (Chautauqua County): Up to $2.5 million
- Improvements to the pier and reconfiguration of the harbor plaza, creating greenspace and a more pedestrian-friendly area for recreation and events.
- Funding for the Central Connections Community Connector to create opportunities for rebranding and improving signage between downtown Dunkirk, SUNY Fredonia, and the Village of Fredonia.
- Funding for a mixed-use infill development that would enhance activity along the waterfront and connect the existing waterfront trail.
City of North Tonawanda (Niagara County): Up to $2.5 million
- Funding for improvements at Gateway Harbor, including new public restrooms, upgraded electrical utilities to docks, new park picnic areas, and lighting.
- Streetscape and pedestrian enhancements on Webster Street and Main Street, both important to the fabric of the central business district.
- Pocket park improvements including new landscaping, signage, and amenities at three downtown locations.
- Signage and visual improvements at downtown entry points.
- Pedestrian improvements at three crossings located on River Road.
City of Lackawanna (Erie County): Up to $2.5 million
- Central Business District intersection, streetscape, and pedestrian enhancements to improve connectivity between community assets. This could include the intersection at Ridge Road and Electric Avenue; intersection at Ridge Road and South Park; Connector Trail between the Botanical Gardens and the Basilica; and creating a bike lane on Ridge Road from Route 5 to South Park Avenue.
- Funding to help incentivize a development on a vacant parcel of land across from Memorial Field, former home to St. Barbara's Church, with the goal of creating a mixed-use development that will include market rate housing and retail space.
- Enhancements to the park adjacent to Memorial Field and the public library to expand recreational opportunities and provide a venue for public uses.
Village of Gowanda: Up to $2.5 million
Improve waterfront access at three locations to increase recreation and tourism:
- Zoar Valley Gateway Park - Enhance the safety and accessibility of the access point located in the ruins of the former factory, and improve various overlook areas.
- Creekside Park - Enhancements to the current pathways to provide access to the waterfront within the downtown area.
- Aldrich Street - Formalize the area at the foot of the Aldrich Street bridge that is a popular location for fishermen.