Tonawanda News — ”The program really focuses on the brownfields themselves and those in the surrounding areas that have been living with the brownfields that need to be redeveloped,” he said.
In 2009, the city began the process of creating a master plan including a new vision for Tonawanda Island, the downtown corridor and the municipality’s waterfront. The island is now home to a mix of industry and boating, but the 546-acre brownfield remains largely vacant.
The funding will allow a study that will bolster a plan to rezone several sections of the city planners say are outdated — including the Webster Street area and Tonawanda Island — a move Zimmerman said would allow a shift away from the city’s industrialized past to one based more on its waterfront residential and tourism opportunities.
The funding would also be used for a traffic study along River Road, as officials eye turning the five-lane roadway from a commuter-heavy thoroughfare to something more conducive to pedestrians while improving access to the river itself. Zimmerman said discussions have been ongoing around whether River Road should be made into a parkway with lower speeds, a plan complicated by the fact it is now controlled by the state.
Officials said the master plan has been used as a template for a potentially dramatic turnaround on Tonawanda Island, but also as a means to bring in state and federal funding coupled with private investment, coming at a time when many Western New York municipalities are moving away from their industrials pasts and toward a new found vision for waterfront development.
Zimmerman said bringing many of these facets together into a lump-sum package would give the city more leeway in pitching future projects to developers.
”That’s one of the things I’m excited about,” he said. “To have professionally developed documents and be able to present them to developers and say ‘here’s an opportunity in NT. Are you interested?’”