Harborfront project doesn’t make cut

The recent announcement of the winners of the latest round of SUNY 20/20 Challenge Grant did not include a proposed local project.

In October, SUNY Fredonia’s Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kevin Kearns addressed a Dunkirk Common Council meeting about the project, which would include a Lake Erie research station built on the city harborfront between the Clarion Hotel and Tim Hortons.

At that time, Kearns said the grant application would be in competition for part of the $60 million set aside through SUNY for community projects and partnerships with universities to facilitate economic development and help with programming at the university.

Kearns was still optimistic about the project when reached Thursday by the OBSERVER.

“The only thing we know objectively is that we weren’t chosen for this round and we’re told there will be another round. I’m confident it will get funded,” he stated. “We’re going to be reapplying and we’re looking for other supplemental funds through other state processes. Frankly, it’s great project.

“I think we’ve gotten tremendous support, both politically and from our partners, and I think it’s a matter of when, not if, in my personal opinion. We didn’t get funded this round; it’s not unusual when you’re asking for that kind of money, but I’m optimistic that we will get funded eventually.”

Kearns was asked if the project would be submitted under the state’s Consoli-dated Funding Application process and if the college is partnering with the city on applications.

“We’re talking about that and I’m confident that we will put in a CFA, we haven’t had followup discussions with all our partners yet, that would certainly be my hope,” he replied. “I’m meeting with (Mayor Anthony J. Dolce) and Steve Neratko to talk about that possibility and get their input. I would certainly hope so, but we were just notified in the last few days, so we haven’t gotten everyone together to really think through the next steps. Clearly there’s an opportunity with the CFA to look for funding there and there’s also, in the not-too-distant future, the likelihood of another SUNY 20/20 round.

“Like any big project I think you have to look toward multiple funding opportunities and we would hope to have the same partnerships and momentum going forward because it’s just such a great project. We have local, city, state and federal support, as well as political support. I think that’s the kind of group that you need to get it done.”

For his part, Dolce said the city was aware the results of this SUNY 20/20 round left out the harborfront project.

“Obviously we’re a little disappointed we weren’t selected but we’ll be meeting with representatives of the college, I’d say within a week, and craft plan B,” Dolce stated. “We’ll make another strong effort to pursue this project.”

Dolce also said different lines of funding would be sought, including the CFA.

“We think that’s the strongest possibility for funding but during the course of the meeting we’ll see if there are any other avenues that may work, or I should say, may be worth exploring,” he explained.

Kearns remains positive about the harborfront proposal.

“I think it’s a great project for the city and the region. The support we’ve gotten is tremendous and I just feel good about it, not discouraged at all,” he stated. “I believe we’ll get it done, it’s just a matter of being persistent. It’s just kind of the normal process when you’re making a big ask to have to go back to the well and look for ways to get it done.”

Until then, harborfront visitors will have more parking spaces available.

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