The wish list from the Buffalo Niagara region’s business community for the coming year is loaded with big-ticket items.
Along with perennial projects, such as Peace Bridge plaza improvements and massive capital investments for the University at Buffalo, local business and political leaders also are throwing their support behind additional funding for a new children’s hospital and a new center for excellence at UB.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s 2013 Regional Agenda, released Monday, puts a heavy focus on education and medical projects and also backs a $50 million investment in a UB Center for Excellence in Materials Informatics as part of the regional push to become a center for advanced manufacturing.
The agenda also backs a number of initiatives that have been partially achieved. They range from getting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign into law expanded historic preservation tax credits that local developers say are essential for several costly renovation projects, to retention of the Niagara Falls Air Base.
Andrew J. Rudnick, the Partnership’s president, said the costs of the Hurricane Sandy cleanup may make it more difficult to get Cuomo to sign the historic tax credit legislation.
He also pressed the governor to appoint members to a board to distribute money from the sale of extra electricity from the Niagara Power Project to local development initiatives.
“There’s a lot more that still needs to be done,” he said.
In all, the projects on the 2013 list, excluding the Peace Bridge plaza improvements and $3.1 billion for UB expansion over 10 years, are seeking nearly $324 million in funding.
In the education and medical category, the report calls for state aid for Roswell Park Cancer Institute to remain at current levels and seeks $60 million over four years to help fund construction of a new children’s hospital on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The agenda backs $5 million in state funding to revive the long-stalled Niagara Experience Center proposal, which would create a new visitor center and museum in Niagara Falls. It also seeks $28 million in federal and state funds to remove the Robert Moses Parkway between the Rainbow Bridge and Findlay Drive and reconstruct Whirlpool Street.
It seeks $60 million in federal and state funding to rebuild the plaza at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, and $8 million in federal and state funding to build a breakwater in Olcott Harbor.
The wish list seeks $9 million for road, utility and waterfront improvements on Tonawanda Island in North Tonawanda, along with $5 million apiece for the development of the Niagara Falls Highland Area Renewable Energy Commerce Park, and the Riverview Solar Technology and North Youngmann Commerce Center, both in the Town of Tonawanda.
In Buffalo, the agenda seeks $42 million in federal and state funds to return cars to lower Main Street, between Church and Scott streets, and rebuild it.
The agenda continues to back the extension of the Route 219 expressway as part of a new north-south Continental One highway.
The regional agenda, developed jointly with Erie and Niagara counties and the cities of Niagara Falls and Buffalo, has been prepared collectively for the past dozen years to coordinate and combine the influence of the region’s political and business interests. The regional agenda is done as a collaboration in a bid to present a unified front in Washington and Albany.
“Collaboration is so key to moving this region forward,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “The fact that we are speaking with one voice and working together has been critically important.”