The SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator was full of brainstorming ideas on how to revitalize Dunkirk during a recent monthly meeting. Community leaders, residents and neighborhood groups came together to discuss and rank projects.

Nicole Waite of the city of Dunkirk’s Development Office said the city has been awarded two grants which will be used mainly on Central Avenue. She said the city was awarded a Main Street Grant which will be used for the 100 and 200 blocks of Central Avenue.

“(Of the grant) $220,000 is for facade rehab and building renovations. Then there’s also $15,000 for streetscape activities for trees, trash cans, benches, bike racks, signage, things like that,” Waite said.

Building owners who have properties in those two blocks of Central Avenue are eligible to receive the grant money. A public meeting will be held to educate business and property owners on the application process. The city also secured a $1,000 Arbor Day grant which will be used for planting trees along Central Avenue.

Waite said the city has put in an application for a grant for the sea wall along Lake Front Boulevard which included a splash pad, a new gazebo and renovations to current restrooms. The city should hear by the end of 2013 or early 2014 on the status of that application. Waite said the city is “hopeful’ since the Western New York Regional Economic Council had positive feedback for the project.

She is also working on getting murals in the city. She said she had spoke with several property owners along Central Avenue who are in favor of having murals on their buildings. She also reached out for donations for painting supplies and a local muralist who could do the work. She also touched on community gardens which have been approved through the Chautauqua County Health Network with Dunkirk being a target community. Waite said at first there was a problem with liability insurance, but that has since been taken care of.

“The city of Dunkirk has already adopted a community garden program where interested individuals can apply for vacant city residential parcels in their neighborhoods if they want to turn them into a community garden,” Waite said. ” … Dunkirk Local Development Corporation has agreed to carry the insurance for the community gardens. If there are any individuals that are interested in developing community gardens in their neighborhood I would ask them to either approach myself or Stephanie Kiyak, councilwoman-at-large.”

Also present from the city’s development department was Steve Neratko, who discussed an Amtrak station reopening. City officials and Amtrak have worked in the past to reopen the Dunkirk station, the most recent being about five years ago. Last year the conversation started once again and the next step is a ridership study.

“The next steps are, we need to do a study to make sure the ridership will be there,” he said. “We did take a look at the old Amtrak station to get a feel of what it would take to open that facility back up or to look at other sites for a station.”

The current site is owned by CSX and the study will reach throughout the county to see if there will be a need for a station. Neratko said CSX would make the decision to reopen the station located on Main Street at the end of Third Street.

One of the other proposed projects would be a complete streets projects throughout the city. Andrew Dickson is a consultant who worked with the Chautauqua County Health Network and Creating Healthy Places to do a walkability study in the city of Dunkirk. Dickson touched on areas of the city which are in need of work.

“A complete street is a street that is safe, convenient and appealing. It’s safe for all users but it’s also nice to be a part of it. It’s a place where you might want to sit on a bench and watch people or meet somebody, or take a walk,” Dickson said.

Dickson said through the walkability study, it was found the streets of Dunkirk are smoother than the sidewalks. The study found more people walk in the street than the sidewalk creating unsafe conditions for residents and motorists. The cities of Jamestown and Salamanca and the village of Gowanda have safe streets ordinances which the city of Dunkirk could use as a guideline. Dickson said the ordinances do not cost any money and is a good first step toward revitalizing the city.

Another area to revitalize Dunkirk would be to utilize the waterfront. John Ames from the local economic development committee said there are 42 miles of lakefront community in Chautauqua County ranging from Ripley to Hanover. He spoke of a previous idea to make the city a focal point out of those 42 miles.

“By making the city of Dunkirk stronger and making all the areas around it stronger, then the whole region could grow. As the northern Chautauqua County grew, it would make it possible to grow,” Ames said.

Other ideas that were brought up included housing targeted toward young professionals and seniors; painting railroad overpasses; having an adopt-a-block program, have a city manager; addressing city zoning laws; and having more police presence in the community on foot and by bicycle. The next meeting will be held on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. at the incubator.

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