Better on Bailey builds on Bailey Avenue’s positive momentum
The University District Community Development Association (UDCDA) has been awarded a $300,000 Buffalo Main Streets Initiative (BMSI) grant to help in the revitalization of Bailey Avenue. The grant was awarded as part of the Better Buffalo Fund, an initiative of the Buffalo Billion. With this funding, the UDCDA has launched the Better on Bailey initiative with an aim to transform the Bailey Avenue streetscape through targeted façade improvements and building renovations. Having actively worked with over half a dozen small business owners through the grant writing process, Better on Bailey will provide a much needed infusion of capital and give owners an opportunity to make significant upgrades and improvements to their properties.
Better on Bailey will provide funding to property owners for renovations including, but not limited to: façade renovations, awnings, signage, lighting, interior commercial and residential building upgrades, and streetscape enhancements. The BMSI is a reimbursement-based grant program. After a renovation project has been successfully completed, property owners will be reimbursed for 75% of eligible project costs. Up to $50,000 is available per building with an additional $25,000 available per residential unit renovated. A target area between Dartmouth Avenue and Westminster Avenue has been identified, although property owners between Winspear Avenue and the Kensington Expressway are encouraged to apply.
Owners who are interested in applying are encouraged to attend one of two info sessions, scheduled for Thursday, March 9th at 6PM and Thursday, March 16th at 8AM. Both sessions will be held at 995 Kensington Avenue and those interested in attending can call 716-832-1010×212 to RSVP. The Better on Bailey application as well as additional information on the program is available on the UDCDA’s website. The deadline to submit an application is 3/31/17.
Better on Bailey is also grounded in the organization’s involvement with Bailey Fights Blight. Started in the Fall of 2014 by the Bailey Avenue Business Association (BABA) and University Heights Tool Library, Bailey Fights Blight is a community-based project that seeks to board up and secure blighted and vacant storefronts along Bailey Avenue, while incorporating public art as a way to beautify the neighborhood, re-imagine vacant or underutilized properties and help redevelop the commercial corridor. As Bailey Fights Blight has evolved into a more comprehensive placemaking initiative, volunteers, residents, and businesses have been engaged in regular cleanups, painting days, and guerilla gardening to help transform Bailey Avenue into a truly great place. Looking at metrics from the project’s monitoring report, City of Buffalo data showed that from 2011-2014, the corridor had an average of 13 new business licenses each year, compared to almost 80 new business licences in 2015, just a year after the project started.
Better on Bailey also has its beginnings in a 2013 Urban Initiative grant awarded to the UDCDA on behalf of Varsity Theatre property owner and BABA President, Ibrahim Cisse, to transform the long dormant neighborhood movie theatre into a premiere event and cultural space on Bailey Avenue. This project was one of the first major investments of public money along Bailey Avenue in recent years. After the Varsity Theatre was re-opened in the first quarter of 2016, noticeable spin-off investments in the immediate surrounding area, including several new businesses and the sale of long vacant buildings, have occurred.
With the theatre acting as a neighborhood anchor, Better on Bailey is building on that project’s momentum by targeting investment along several key blocks of Bailey Avenue. A study commissioned by LISC Buffalo identified gaps in existing businesses along Bailey Avenue and provided targets for attracting new retail and service-based options. Investment in Bailey Avenue is also part of a strategy to stabilize the surrounding residential streets. According to a recent Buffalo Promise Neighborhood housing conditions survey, residential blight and vacancy tend to be concentrated in the blocks closest to Bailey Avenue. By repositioning Bailey Avenue as an attractive place to invest and grow a business through Better on Bailey while leveraging Community Development Block Grant funding employed by the UDCDA through its home repair program, Bailey-Kensington can once again become a thriving East Side community.
From public art and community cleanups, to a re-imagined neighborhood theatre and grant funds to capitalize on Bailey Avenue’s historic building stock, things are already looking #BetteronBailey!