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State grants City of Lockport $10 million for downtown development projects

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The City of Lockport was informed Wednesday it is one of ten municipalities throughout the state selected for $10 million grants, as part of a competitive bidding program conducted through the state's Regional Economic Development Councils.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who represented Lockport as part of her former congressional district, appeared inside the Cornerstone CFCU Ice Arena to deliver the news. The double ice rink complex, which opened in the fall of 2014, is one example of what local leaders are hoping to pitch as a city on the rebound.

Hochul says the one-time cash infusion is intended to revive mixed uses in downtown Lockport, residential and commercial. She noted the Erie Canal as a tourist destination and the city's location on the route. 

"We want to make sure that the downtown streets look magnificent," Hochul said. "Some of the buildings have been refurbished. We've invested state dollars in the past. But there's still a few loose teeth, when you look along the architecture and the facades that need a little sprucing up, a little tender loving care."

The lieutenant governor says developing residential spaces with retail shops, breweries and restaurants on the ground level would send a message to outsiders and potential investors that the city has indeed come back.

Acting Lockport mayor David Wohleben explained that for this year's grant competition, they hired professionals to help them assemble their formal pitch. He believes that, along with taking another look at their list of projects, resulted in a better-assembled presentation.

Wohleben says the goal is to create a more walkable and bicycle-friendly downtown.

"There are probably 25 projects that we have earmarked," he said. "Some of them are developing vacant buildings downtown, improving walkability, improving bikeability, hopefully enticing someone to build a downtown hotel. We're looking at more marketable downtown apartments and housing."

Not all the projects, he adds, may necessarily get a piece of the grant. Wohleben says the state will approve which of the projects they'd like completed. That could mean just a few of the priorities actually get funded. 

"That's a process we still have to go through," Wohleben said. 

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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