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BUDC greenlights downtown projects

 Significant renovations for a pair of downtown Buffalo buildings have moved one step closer to reality and, at the same time, much-discussed upgrades to a entranceway into the central business district cleared another hurdle.


In separate action Tuesday afternoon, the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. okayed potential allocations of $1.35 million from the Buffalo Building Reuse Program — pending formal loan applications and underwriting actions occur.


In the second year of the BBRP funding process, six downtown project developers sought a slice of the program's funding pie, but once the BUDC Selection Committee reviewed the proposals, selected for the current financial support round were:


? Kissling Interests, through its Main & Cathedral Development LLC affiliate, which will receive $750,000 in BBRP funds to help transform vacant office space in the historic 298 Main St. Building into 26 market-rate apartments. The conversion will bring new life to a building that has, in recent years, lost such tenants as the law firm DamonMorey.


"There is a deep-rooted history with BUDC," said Brandye Merriweather, the agency's downtown development coordinator.


? Developer/real estate investor Fred LoFaso was approved for a $600,000 allocation that will see seven vacant or under-utilized buildings along Ellicott, Oak and Genesee Streets renovated, anchored by 21 market-rate apartments. Among the buildings is the former Curve restaurant that sits just across Oak Street from Catholic Health's newly opened headquarters. The buildings had been owned by out-of-town interests.


"This gets the buildings back into the hands of someone who really understands downtown Buffalo," Merriweather said.


? Also, the BUDC directors approved a $750,000 allocation as a local match for oft-discussed and anticipated transformation of a stretch of Genesee Street — between Oak and Washington streets — into a more inviting and pedestrian-friendly boulevard. The work parallels similar projects along Ohio Street and what has been completed along downtown's 700 block of Main Street.


New, decorative lighting, more plantings and green infrastructure.


The work could start later this year and dovetails not only the opening of Catholic Health's headquarters but several other private sector investments including the Genesee Gateway Building and those by developer Rocco Termini.


The entire project carries a $2.1 million development price tag.

"Given what's happening there, this project is so important and ready to go," Merriweather said.

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