SCHUMER LAUNCHES MAJOR EFFORT TO SECURE $25 MILLION TO BRING CAR TRAFFIC BACK TO BUFFALO’S MAIN STREET & CONNECT DOWNTOWN CORE WITH CANALSIDE; WITH +1,000 NEWS JOBS COMING DOWNTOWN, SENATOR SAYS SIGNIFICANT INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT IS CRUCIAL TO SUPPORTING EMERGING TECH HUB & BRINGING BUFFALO’S INFRASTRUCTURE INTO 21ST CENTURY
1980s Urban Planning Eliminated Vehicular Access To Buffalo’s Lower Main Street; Schumer Has Secured $33 Million In Fed Funding For City’s Main Street Transformation Project In Recent Years
Standing At Seneca One Tower, Schumer Launches Major Push To Secure $25M BUILD Grant For Critical Phase Of “Cars On Main” Project, To Connect Buffalo’s Main Street To Bustling Canalside Neighborhood And Enhance Growing Downtown Technology Ecosystem
Schumer To Feds: Investment Is Critical To Keep Buffalo’s Main Street Revitalization On The Road To Success
Standing at Seneca One Tower in Buffalo, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to approve the City of Buffalo’s application for $25 million in federal funding through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program. Schumer explained that the City of Buffalo would use the funding to execute a critical stage of the “Cars on Main” program, which aims to strengthen Buffalo’s downtown core by bringing vehicular traffic back to Main Street after disastrous urban planning eliminated it in the 1980s. In the wake of M&T Bank’s announcement that it will bring 1,000 or more new jobs to Seneca One Tower, Schumer argued that the need for updated and modern transportation infrastructure is all the more pressing. This newest phase includes the blocks between Exchange and Swan Streets, including the parcel directly underneath Seneca One.
“M&T Bank’s economy-jolting and job-creating investment in Buffalo tells us one thing above all else: the city is on its way back and in a big way. However, before this investment can fully take root and help turn Buffalo into the national hub for technology and innovation we know it can be, the city must first have reliable and modern transportation infrastructure, with the entirety of Main Street being accessible by car,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m launching a major effort to secure the final federal grant needed to complete the “Cars on Main’ project and connect Downtown Buffalo with Canalside, which is in the midst of its own revitalization. This federal funding would keep Downtown Buffalo’s renaissance on the road to success, helping to attract new businesses to Main Street that will be essential to a business-friendly ecosystem, and it should be approved as soon as possible.”
Schumer explained that the “Cars on Main” program has been one of the City of Buffalo’s most significant undertakings in recent years, aiming to strengthen the City’s downtown core and create synergistic linkages with other nodes of development and activity—most notably Canalside. Schumer explained that in the 1980s, disastrous urban planning was responsible for the elimination of vehicular traffic through the lowest portions of Buffalo’s Main Street. The poor planning led to iconic structures like Shea’s Performing Arts Center and Seneca One Tower being isolated from Western New Yorkers aiming to visit via car. Schumer explained this resulted in a desolate Downtown Buffalo core, with a stagnant business community and very few permanent residents. Schumer argued that while Buffalo is fast becoming a destination for those seeking to live, work and play in a vibrant, modern, exciting and varied urban area, thanks in large part to significant investment in Canalside, further progress is being held up by the continued lack of vehicle traffic on Main Street.
Schumer argued that there has never been a better time to invest in Downtown Buffalo. Furthermore, he said that the City’s plan to return vehicle traffic to three vital parcels of Main Street is the necessary next step in Buffalo’s downtown redevelopment. Specifically, the final stage of the “Cars on Main” project would add vehicular traffic to the three blocks of Main Street between Exchange Street and Swan Street, including under the newly-renovated Seneca One Tower. The City of Buffalo and private investors would fund 33% of the $37.7 million project, with the $25 million in BUILD funding used for the remaining 66%.
Additionally, Schumer said that the expedient completion of the “Cars on Main” project and connection of Downtown Buffalo to the bustling Canalside area become even more pressing in the wake of M&T Bank’s major announcement that it would be bringing a new technology hub to Buffalo’s Seneca One Tower, committing to bring 1,500 jobs to the city. However, Schumer said, in order for the bank to attract and hire the best tech talent possible, the city must first have completely reliable and modern transportation infrastructure. This, Schumer said, demands that the entirety of the city’s Main Street be accessible by car, rather than only certain sections of it.
Schumer was joined by Mayor of Buffalo Byron W. Brown, local developer Douglas Jemal, and M&T Bank officials.
“Connectivity between Downtown and our waterfront is key in continuing the positive economic momentum currently underway in the City of Buffalo,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “Our successful Cars Sharing Main Street initiative, which restores vehicular traffic to Main Street, complements other economic development improvements that will bring a major boost to Canalside, the newly opened Explore & More Children’s Museum, KeyBank Center and Harborcenter. I thank Senator Schumer for continuing to be a champion in Washington for the people of Buffalo by working to secure funding for this project. I also thank Douglas Development for its commitment to having a positive impact on our community by supporting this and other major economic development projects in our great City.”
In 2011, Schumer began work alongside Mayor Brown to spearhead the effort to return cars to Main Street in downtown Buffalo. Main Street was once one of the most economically successful and thriving sections of downtown, but since cars were removed over 30 years ago, the area has seen a downturn in economic activity and pedestrian traffic. When the project began in 2008, most of the storefronts were barren or underutilized and private sector investment was stifled. In an effort to help redevelop downtown, Schumer led the charge to secure the first $15 million grant for the project and then began to push USDOT, including in personal calls to previous Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, to make another major investment in Buffalo’s downtown with the hopes of stimulating further growth and development in the surrounding businesses and properties. In 2015, Schumer’s efforts paid off when he announced the successful securing of an additional $18 million in federal funding for the second phase of the project. Now, Schumer is pushing for the final $25 million needed to finish the remaining lower parcels of the “Cars on Main” project.
The DOT’s BUILD program, previously known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant Program, was created to spur innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects that promise significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, a region or the nation. Projects that typically receive BUILD grants include improvements to roads, bridges, rail, ports, transit and intermodal facilities, and Schumer noted that the “Cars on Main” plan fits squarely within the program’s mission.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to DOT appears below.
Dear Secretary Chao,
I write to express my full support for the City of Buffalo, New York’s application for funding under the Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program. This $25 Million investment will strengthen the downtown core of Buffalo, create synergistic linkages with other nodes of development and activity – most notably Canalside – and further build upon its current renaissance.
The “Cars on Main” program is one of the most significant undertakings by the City of Buffalo in recent years. In the 1980’s, disastrous urban planning was responsible for the elimination of vehicular traffic through the lowest portions of Buffalo’s Main Street. Iconic structures like Shea’s Performing Arts Center and Seneca One Tower were isolated from Western New Yorkers seeking to visit via car. The result was a desolate downtown core with a minimal business community and very few permanent residents. Over the last decade, what was once abandoned has become a bustling hub of activity. Thanks in large part to the significant investment of the Canalside area, Buffalo is once again a destination for those seeking to live, work and play in vibrant, modern, exciting and varied urban area.
Standing in the way of further progress is the continued lack of vehicle traffic on Main Street. In short, we must strike while the iron is hot. There has never been a better time to invest in Downtown Buffalo. The City of Buffalo’s plan to return vehicle traffic to three vital parcels of Main Street, from Exchange Street to Swan Street, is the necessary next step in Buffalo’s downtown development. Connecting upper-Main Street with the Canalside neighborhood would not only allow greater accessibility to a bustling area, but also help create an important ecosystem that will attract new and exciting businesses to Western New York and Downtown Buffalo. Crucially, M&T Bank’s commitment to bringing up to 1500 new jobs to Downtown Buffalo makes the need for an updated and modern downtown center all the more pressing. The ability to attract tech talent will be dependent upon Buffalo’s growing status as a desirable place to live.
We must strike while the iron is hot. Investing in Buffalo now will lead to an even more prosperous future for all of Western New York. I whole-heartedly endorse their application for funding and I hope that it meets with your approval.
Please feel free to contact me or my staff if you have any questions on this or any other matter.