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More of Main Street will be open to cars, as Cars Sharing Main Street project gets more federal aid

Another section of Main Street in Downtown Buffalo is going to be torn up as part of the Cars Sharing Main Street project.

The next section of Main to be reopened to cars, mostly on the old Metro Rail pedestrian mall, will be from Mohawk Street to the Seneca One Tower.

There's $54 million state and federal dollars coming in fund this latest part of a project that began in 2009. This latest round of funding will raise to $108 million the state and federal cash spent on putting cars and railcars on Main since 2009.

Supporters of the project have long argued the Metro Rail wrecked the economy of downtown by shutting the street for a pedestrian mall.

Main Place is the organization which runs a major section of downtown, including Main Street. Executive Director Michael Schmand said car-sharing has paid off, as the downtown population has risen to 5,000 and development has replaced decrepit blocks, like the 500 block across from the Hyatt Regency.

“Compared to what that area looked like 10 short years ago, every front was vacant. There was nobody living on the block," Schmand said. "If you take a look now, you take a look at what Steve Carmina did at Genesee Street. Not only is he a building owner down here, but he lives down here and he has his business down here. That's what downtowns used to be like.”

Schmand said some development is closer to home for him, like right across Main from his office.

“Tent City was a retail space. It was there forever. But they did nothing with their upstairs floors. A new owner came in, adaptive reuse. We have five high-end apartments going in. That means more people living on Main Street. The downstairs will be a retail operation," he said.

There is also work going on along Canalside, where the NFTA is extending the rail line onto South Park down to the old DL&W train station for development on its second floor. That’s to be finished this year.

Schmand said the Brown Administration has been putting money into downtown for planning and construction.

“They said they were going to invest in the Entertainment District. They just finished up Chippewa Street. They're moving down Franklin Street and they're taking a look at Court Street and they're working on that right now and if you want to be a 24/7 downtown, the most important thing people have to be able to walk around their downtown and that's what the city is creating, a very walkable Downtown," Schmand said.

It’s creating that continuing demand for rental housing and some for-sale housing as those residents create that around the clock, active and safe lifestyle.

Schmand said he wants a Target in the neighborhood to meet the demands of residents.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.