Tonawanda News — It’s no secret to those in the Lumber City that the once bustling commercial district on Oliver Street has seen better days.
Rising crime and an increase in the number of rental units along the street, may say, can be laid in part at the feet of population loss and a trend toward suburban-style plaza developments.
Oliver Street has taken a downward economic slide, though there remain a spattering of valuable restaurants and cultural organizations.
But Rich Andres, the city’s common council president who also represents the second ward, believes that a beautification project he has initiated will serve as an early catalyst for a transformation there.
His plan involves planting 100 trees between the Erie Canal on Sweeney Street and the evolving Buffalo Bolt Business Park, located just up the road.
During the last several days, he’s managed to chip away at 10 percent of that vision with the help of students from North Tonawanda High School, where he teaches, and members of the North Tonawanda Active Hose Fire Co. #2 near Sommer Street, along with 10 trees donated by Re-Tree WNY.
“There’s plenty of life on that street, plenty of businesses that are doing a great job,” Andres said, “And there’s a good amount to build off of.”
His goal during the next few years — beginning with the tree planting which he plans to extend through the spring and summer of 2013 — is to make the area more appealing for future development.
With the growth along Webster Street in the downtown district continuing to make gains, Andres sees an opportunity to expand that slow success onto parts of Oliver.
“Everybody knows Webster Street has been a success story with building after building coming back,” he said. “But people may forget it took 15 years to get there.”