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Niagara Street: The West Side's Upside

Mike Desmond

Niagara Street has changed a lot in recent years and will continue to change, according to experts speaking to a large crowd Wednesday night at the Rich Products Atrium on Niagara Street.

This was the latest in a series of looks at different neighborhoods around the city, sponsored by Cannon Design.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Niagara Street has gone from a museum of potholes capable of swallowing snow plows and surrounded by the city's Latino community to a heavily repaired street increasingly flanked by old industrial buildings turned into millennials housing, restaurants, art galleries and the anchor of D'Youville College, a landmark for more than a century.

"One of the big things that the city is doing is the initiative to really improve the street," said Cannon Principal Michael Tunkey, "and probably you have already seen the section to the south of Porter. So I think it will help the community significantly when transportation is improved, when the street is more walkable, more bikeable. If you have a better street, you have more public acess. That opens up a lot of opportunities for architects, for business owners."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

One of those business owners is Ciminelli Real Estate CEO Paul Ciminelli, whose firm has put what he describes as "a lot" of money into developments like the Mentholatum housing conversion and a new project on the way next door - and more change is on the way in the next few years.

"You're going to see enhanced public spaces, sidewalks, streetscape, new paving," Ciminelli said. "You're going to see a more vibrant community. The ultimate objective is, in my opinion, we really gauge the vibrancy by how many people, not how many cars are driving by, but how many you see walking on the sidewalks."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Another member of the discussion panel, D'Youville President Lorrie Clemo, said her 3,000 students - increasingly immigrants - want better public transportation.

"The students are looking to be more sustainable," Clemo said. "They are looking at alternative ways of transportation. If there is more public transportation available, they will use it. They have made that very clear to us. Many of our students are now coming from other cities because they are coming from broader areas across the country, so they are accustomed to having good transportation systems."

Clemo said her students also want more small shops, restaurants and breweries - like the small shops which once lined Niagara - for students outside of studying time.

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