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Buffalo Building Reuse loan fund gets $9 million boost

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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Five banks are among the partners boosting a loan fund that is credited with aiding some of Buffalo's recent downtown redevelopment. The $9 million infusion is expected, by some leaders, to make it possible to assist up to 10 projects per year.

The cash is going into the Buffalo Building Reuse Project's loan fund, which began with $3 million when the BBRP was established in 2012. Leaders announced the additional money at a news conference Tuesday inside Planing Mill, a redevelopment that was among the first to utilize dollars from the BBRP's loan fund.

"This, I think, will triple the amount of loan activity that we are able to move forward through the BBRP loan fund," said Mayor Byron Brown.

The BBRP was founded by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership at the urging of Brown, while its loan fund was set up by the City of Buffalo and the Empire State Development Corporation. According to the Partnership, three projects have been approved to date with two more pending.

"The objective here is to meet the mayor's goal of getting more residential housing in downtown Buffalo," Gallagher-Cohen said. 

"This is really attempting to accelerate what's already happening, to give us something to talk about outside the market, and to really get some of these buildings down here to get done because the buildings that are left are difficult."

The BBRP encourages developers to convert vacant or underutilized commercial properties into residential or mixed-use buildings. Planing Mill, a former mill which was also home to the former Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant, is now a mix of ground-level commercial space and residential apartments on the upper levels.

Those who redeveloped the Elm Street building say it was not an easy task but it was one that became possible with the help of a short-term $750,000 loan from the BBRP's fund.

"This building required a complete exterior and interior rehabilitation and reconstruction," said Christian Campos, president of TM Montante Development. "It just wouldn't have gotten done, were we not able to meet those challenges by lining up the financing to move forward."

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Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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A view of a hallway in the residential section of Planing Mill, a former mill site converted into a mixed-use building.

The five banks which provided money to boost the BBRP loan fund are Evans Bank, First Niagara Bank, HSBC, KeyBank and M&T. Gallagher-Cohen, when asked, would not disclose the amounts each bank provided, explaining that the Partnership did not want to make any individual bank's participation seem greater or smaller. But she did tell reporters "there is no donation less than a million dollars."

The New York Business Development Corporation also provided dollars to boost the loan fund.

Applications for the next quarterly round of BBRP loan funding will open on January 1. Interested developers can get more information at Buffalo Urban Development Corporation's website.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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