Main Street grants to spruce up Central Avenue buildings

Business owners from the 100 and 200 block of Central Avenue were joined by several residents for an informational meeting on the city of Dunkirk’s Main Street grant program.

The city received the $250,000 grant from the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal last year and decided to focus the effort of improving the look of “Main Street” on the 100 and 200 blocks of Central Avenue.

“We are focusing on a small area, so we can have a big impact,” City Director of Planning and Development Steve Neratko said.

Neratko explained the city intends on spending $15,000 on streetscape projects, $15,000 on administration and awarding the remaining $220,000 to building owners in the two-block area.

Each business is eligible for up to $50,000 and an extra $10,000 for upper residential units, with total awards not to exceed $100,000. It was also explained the grants require a 25 percent match.

Neratko also explained the grants are reimbursements.

“It is a reimbursement program. That means owners will have to come up with the money for the projects upfront, but we are trying to work with some banks on loans for this,” he said. “Once the work is done and the owner signs off, the city signs off and the code inspector signs off, then the project will be reimbursed.”

He said businesses can apply for funding for facade work or interior renovations. Facade work may need to be cleared with the New York State Department of Parks and Historical Preservation and will have to be approved by the city planning board. Renovations cannot be non-permanent purchases, such as equipment.

All 100-200 block Central Avenue building owners were notified of the meeting and the criteria for funding by mail. Neratko said he will also be contacting the businesses not in attendance.

Jim Stoyle of the Fireman’s Exempts Club asked if joint ventures are allowed because they may like to seek funding for a fence between the club and the American Legion building. Neratko said he was willing to work with the two agencies.

Aida DeJesus, owner of 200-202 Central Ave., asked if roof replacement would be funded. Neratko said he was not sure but would look into it.

Neratko said the planning department is willing to help owners file applications, as well as go through the award, bidding and construction processes. Applications are due Jan. 15.

Neratko said the city would like to have all projects completed within a year. He also said it is possible the city could get more Main Street grant funding in the future for more projects.

After the meeting, Chautauqua County Rural Ministries Executive Director Kathleen Peterson said she will take the information to the CCRM board for discussion. She said CCRM could use the money but said the upfront funds could be an issue.

“We have five store fronts. We could use all the money. The problem is going to be the upfront money. As a nonprofit, I don’t know if we have that kind of money in our coffers. But this is a great opportunity and we are going to seriously consider it,” she said.

Neratko said there will be future meetings on the Main Street grants program and on the streetscape portion of the project.

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