By Seth Piccirillo
Niagara Gazette — The private sector is making significant investment in the Third Street Commercial District. Proven local business people, who could have invested anywhere in the region, chose our city. That is a win for Niagara Falls.
New commercial and market rate residential development on Third Street benefits our entire community. More investment means more tax revenue, more commerce, new construction projects, and creation of permanent jobs. It means fewer vacant buildings and government-funded demolitions. All have positive impacts on the city’s future bottom line.
The Dyster Administration wants to keep our residents directly informed about these developments, and the City’s role in the process. As always, you deserve clearly stated facts. To that end, here is the new Third Street investment by the numbers:
• 6 – Buildings have been purchased on Third Street, from Niagara Street to Main Street, within the last 12 months. All of the new owners — private sector investors — live in Western New York. This is in marked contrast to the past, when out-of-town speculators with no apparent redevelopment plans owned much of the street.
• $803,000 – Total price paid by three different local development groups to purchase the buildings. The previous owners were willing to sell, and the new owners were willing to spend their own money upfront.
• 27,000 square feet – Amount of commercial and residential space being renovated and modernized by the new owners. The majority of this space has until now sat vacant.
• $1.7 million – The total investment, including purchase prices and renovations, being put into the development of these properties.
• $80,000 – Total amount of casino funds being contributed to three separate building renovations, as approved by the NFC Board earlier this month. These grants will be dedicated to hard costs: apartment renovation, building improvements, and the purchase of equipment. All grants are dollar-for-dollar matches with the owner, with public funds to be delivered when the work is complete and inspected, not upfront. If the legal conditions of the grant are not met, the funds are not turned over. The Niagara Falls Community Development Department is also working with the new owners to obtain matching storefront improvement grants from federal and Empire State Development sources, not city funds.
• $0 – Amount of general fund dollars being granted. When we find ways to make concrete improvements to a business district without the use of city property tax revenue, that helps to keep taxes lower for you.
• Over 20 to 1 - The city’s return on investment for these developments. We are making a strategic decision. When a building is owned and renovated, that eliminates vacancy and reduces the likelihood of blight, tax-foreclosure and demolition. We know that these buildings are costly to renovate, and potential commercial rents are lower in Niagara Falls than some other cities in our region, putting the owners at a disadvantage. Just like the owners, we want to see rented apartments and new storefronts as soon as possible. It is simply common sense for the city to make a small investment in fixing a building now, rather than dealing with the devastatingly high costs of owning it through a foreclosure proceeding later.
• 11 – Number of strategic demolitions of blighted buildings that Niagara Falls Community Development did in 2013, immediately surrounding the Third Street Commercial District. The residents and business owners spoke and we listened. We concentrated multiple demolitions in the hope of leveraging private investment. Guess what? Our strategy worked!
• $450,000 – Grant received through the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council to help fund demolitions, storefront renovations and other bricks and mortar improvements. Empire State Development and its local affiliate, USA Niagara, have been, and will continue to be, the essential partners in downtown Niagara Falls. This $450.000 is just another example of Governor Cuomo’s commitment to making immediate improvements in our city.
• <\ 1 mile – The distance 3rd Street is from the state park, making it a key district for tourists and residents alike. Everyone knows we need more local storefronts and market rate residential options downtown. That’s what these developments are all about. Current business owners, who led the charge, remain committed to the street; they went out and recruited new investors to reinforce their efforts. The city applauds their daily efforts and thanks them for working to build our private-public partnership.
Construction crews are already working on renovations up and down the street. This is more than just a plan; it’s a series of coordinated actions that will help move our city forward. The numbers add up to a bright future for the 3rd Street Commercial District, and that’s good news for all of us.Seth Piccirillo, is the director of Community Development in the city of Niagara Falls.