Main Street Niagara Falls. June 19, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Niagara Falls Awarded $10 million from State Initiative

Funds will go toward downtown development

August 14, 2019 - 1:47 pm

NIAGARA FALLS (WBEN - Brendan Keany) - Governor Andrew Cuomo made a stop in Niagara Falls on Wednesday morning to deliver exciting news to the region, as he explained that the city has won $10 million in this round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

New York State began the DRI because they wanted to put the impetus on local governments to decide what kind of development projects would make the most sense for their individual regions, but of course, those governments need to find ways to fund said projects.

"We said to local governments, 'You come up with your own downtown revitalization plan; you know what you need, and what areas you're doing well and what areas are not doing well, so you fashion a specific plan for your downtown area,'" said Cuomo. "You put in a plan that was really smart, intelligent and impressed a lot of people, and what I like about it is that it addresses probably the largest improvement we're making, which is the Robert Moses Parkway."

However, the DRI is extremely competitive funding, as the state anticipated 10 winning spots, and the winners would receive an award of up to $10 million. Cuomo explained that there were nearly 100 applications from all over the state.

"You have to be realistic in your expectations, and yes, you want to be first and you want $10 million, but being in the second tranche means you're in the top 20-percent, and that's good, right? Sometimes, you can always be number-one; not everybody can be number-one," Cuomo teased. "Do you understand the context that I'm trying to establish? Am I communicating the calibration? Okay, with that calibration in mind, it's my pleasure to announce that you have won the DRI - first place, $10 million...congratulations."

Listen to the full press conference below:

Now that the money is secured, the question transitions to what will it go toward, and when can we expect to see tangible results?

Anthony Vilardo is the president of USA Niagara, which is a subsidiary of Empire State Development, and he helped explain some of the logistics.

"Typically, the DRI process runs through the Department of State," he began. "There will be a local planning committee that is put in place, which will take the recommendations from the application under advisement, and they'll pull local stakeholders in to help influence how those dollars are spent."

He elaborated further:

"The municipality submitted a list of projects, already, to Empire State Development through submission round four of the DRI process," said Vilardo. "From there, this committee will go in and take those projects under advisement; they'll reach out to local stakeholders, and hold those meetings and take advisement of what the local community wants to see how those dollars are spent in our community."

Listen to Vilardo's full comments below:

Mayor Paul Dyster pointed to a massive project as a direction that he'd like to see this funding head toward.

The really transformative thing that's happening in the neighborhood is the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway," began Dyster. "But then, in order to connect the neighborhood the waterfront, there are improvements that we have to do on our side of the line, and some of those are public realm improvements - improving pedestrian and cycle access to the trail system that is going to be created as part of the parkway program...looking after the aesthetics of the street scape - what are the streetlights like? What are the benches like? What are the waste receptacles like? Does the sidewalk need to be adjusted? How do we do improvements along this Main Street corridor at critical corners where there are key connections to the gorge to make sure that the spirit of the park is drawn up into the city. I think that is what's going to be attractive to both developers and investors, and we've seen some of that already, but we think also to current and future residents of the neighborhood."

Listen to Dyster's full comments below:

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