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NORTH TONAWANDA – The City of North Tonawanda will be making some much needed improvements on Oliver Street and will continue updating the Gratwick Riverside Marina after nearly $1 million in state funding was recently awarded to the city by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

North Tonawanda received $208,125 for continued work on docks, more inlet dredging, lighting, landscaping, paving, utilities and signage at Gratwick Riverside Marina; $144,707 for the Sweeney Street pedestrian/bike path extension along the Erie Canal, which will connect Mayor’s Park with the existing path at the intersection of Payne Avenue and Sweeney Street; and $200,000 for upgrades that will focus on revitalizing Oliver Street.

In addition, two nonprofits also were awarded funding. The Riviera Theatre will receive $42,343 for a digital conversion project, which will update its projectors to the required digital format; and the Allan Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, which will receive a total of $268,450 from two state grants to restore the Allan Herschell office building, which is part of the museum complex.

Mayor Robert G. Ortt called the annual awards announcement the “Super Bowl of funding.”

“We did very well,” Ortt said. “I think a lot of the money we have received over the years from the state you can see the results from those investments. It comes into play because they can see that it is money well spent.”

The money is part of more than $60.8 million awarded in Western New York and $715.9 million throughout the state as part of an initiative launched in 2011 by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to fund capital projects that focus on smart growth, workforce development and entrepreneurship.

Ortt said the streetscape grant for Oliver Street, which will be administered by the city’s Lumber City Development Corp., will assist owners in updating facades to revive the ailing business strip.

“Oliver Street has not received the attention the downtown has or other parts of the city have received,” Ortt said, noting that this is the type of funding that was used to help upgrade and revitalize Webster Street.

“It focuses on the facades and aesthetic improvements, which goes a long way towards the character of the street and whether people feel welcome,” he said. “Oliver Street being an extension of our downtown and being a business corridor, with a lot businesses and restaurants still on Oliver Street, you want to have a streetscape that is inviting. This is a first step. It’s not a silver bullet, but if you look at what happened on Webster – we want to replicate that on Oliver Street.”

He added, “For the businesses and people that are on Oliver Street that have been working so hard to make their businesses succeed over the years, I think this is really welcome news.”

“This money brings people in for recreational activities, connecting people to our downtown from other parts of the city and our waterfronts, along the canal” said Ortt of the bike path. “It’s going to bring in people, whether they want to walk or ride our path, hopefully it will bring them into our downtown and patronize these businesses.”

Ortt said the city originally had requested $500,000 for Gratwick Riverside Marina improvements, but said the new funding will help continue the work that already has been started.

“If you step back, we’ve actually received well over $1 million from state, federal and from the Niagara County Legislature (in Greenway funding) since 2011,” Ortt said. “And that all started with a $100,000 market feasibility study the city commissioned. “It was one of my first decisions when I took office, to determine the best use of that property.”

This past summer dredging was done and sheet walls were replaced in the marina as well as lighting and bathroom facilities for boaters. He said the vast majority of improvements at the marina have not come from city coffers.

“We’ve certainly leveraged a lot of money down there,” Ortt said. “Our goal is to bring people to North Tonawanda, from not just North Tonawanda, but anywhere people have boats.”

email: nfischer@buffnews.com