Main Street land buyer plans public forums in the Falls

This file photo from last month shows several of the properties along Main Street that were sold by Youngstown businessman Richard Hastings to the private equity firm Blue Cardinal Capital in a $3.2 million deal. 

The company that purchased a swath of Main Street properties earlier this year says it has laid the groundwork for upcoming public meetings regarding the future of neighborhood. 

Representatives from Blue Cardinal Capital joined local and state officials last month in announcing the company's purchase of more than two dozen Main Street properties from Youngstown businessman Richard Hastings as part of a $3.2 million deal.

Officials with the private equity firm, which focuses on acquiring real estate, held a briefing earlier this week at Niagara University's St. Vincent Hall. They described the meeting as a "prelude to upcoming community conversations that will center on emerging workforce and contracting opportunities." Those conversations will feature opportunities for input from residents regarding the future of the neighborhood, company officials indicated. 

Mayor Paul Dyster said the North End has existing assets, including its proximity to Canada and the Upper Niagara River Gorge.

“It’s a well-defined, concise neighborhood that seems to have a huge amount of natural advantages," Dyster said. "Our feeling is finally the time has come for this part of Main Street to shine."

Bob Richardson, president of Blue Cardinal, said the residents and business representatives will be invited to participate in forums with the firm's team that are slated for "the coming months." 

The purpose of the July 9 event was to garner interest from banks, community development organizations, foundations and other funders, and to encourage them to consider opportunities in the city's North End.

“A targeted approach to development will be extremely beneficial to businesses and neighborhood residents," Richardson said, adding later that "concentrated investment in this neighborhood can turn it around, with attention and focus."

Richardson reiterated the potential for the community, which he said is the closest spot in the U.S. to one "most vibrant economies in the world," referring to the greater City of Toronto region. He also believes the Falls will benefit from the ongoing removal and redesign of the former Robert Moses Parkway. 

Anthony Vilardo, president of the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp., which oversees state-aided development efforts downtown, said he believes growth outside the city's core will benefit the city as a whole. 

"People are willing to come to this neighborhood if we give them reasons to come to the north Main Street area," he said. "Not only are we creating places for people to visit, but places for people to work." 

Robert Bennett, the chairman of the Statler Foundation, an organization that does philanthropic work related to the hospitality industry and college scholarships, highlighted the high poverty conditions in the North End. 

“Many attempts in the past for urban renewal wound up being 'urban removal,'" Bennett said, according to a statement. "Part of the success of this project is to find a way to listen to and engage the citizens who live here. Not to say we’re here to do for you, but we’re here to do things with you. That’s going to take some doing, some patience, and a keen understanding of the folks who live there and want it to become vibrant.”

Richardson said the upcoming community conversations will be scheduled with the goal of creating a study "to provide myriad metrics regarding the condition of the neighborhood."