Fort Erie in­cen­tive pro­gram pro­vides a facelift

The Niagara Falls Review - - Local - JAMES CULIC

A good com­mer­cial dis­trict needs a few things: a va­ri­ety of stores, a place to grab a cof­fee, some neat bou­tique shops and a prime lo­ca­tion.

But it also needs to look warm and invit­ing, some­thing which some of the shop­ping strips in Fort Erie were miss­ing.

But thanks to lo­cal gov­ern­ment-backed com­mu­nity im­prove­ment pro­grams (CIPs), the key com­mer­cial ar­eas in town have been get­ting a facelift.

“The CIPs have been an ab­so­lute god­send for us,” said Ge­orge McDermott, the ward coun­cil­lor for the north end of Fort Erie, which in­cludes the his­toric Jarvis Street com­mer­cial block. “The look of this street has been trans­formed over the last few years, and a big part of that is the CIPs and the fund­ing that helps these busi­nesses.”

CIPs vary be­tween mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, but the main goal is al­ways the same: to spur in­vest­ment and de­vel­op­ment to tra­di­tional com­mer­cial ar­eas, not big box stores or shop­ping malls. In Fort Erie, the CIPs in­clude a va­ri­ety of in­cen­tives tar­geted to­ward both at­tract­ing new re­tail store­fronts, and re­de­vel­op­ing the ones that al­ready ex­ist.

By lever­ag­ing those in­cen­tives, places such as the F8 Salon were able to com­plete daz­zling re­designs of their store­front, bring­ing a sleek and mod­ern feel to a place that was start­ing to show its age a bit too much.

“With the salon, we were able to waive the de­vel­op­ment charges and do a cou­ple other things that helped that project along,” said McDermott.

Jarvis Street has been the com­mer­cial hub in Fort Erie for more than a cen­tury, but over those years, some parts have been al­lowed to fall into dis­re­pair. Part of the CIP pack­age for that area in­cluded in­cen­tives for prop­erty own­ers to ren­o­vate the up­stairs apart­ments above the com­mer­cial store­fronts be­fore. By en­cour­ag­ing the sec­ond-floor re­de­vel­op­ment, the first-floor re­tail spa­ces were also get­ting a spruc­ing up of their own.

While the CIPs have been work­ing well in Jarvis Street, there’s more work to be done, and McDermott hopes that Ni­a­gara Re­gion, which part­ners with the lower mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to fund the pro­grams, keeps the taps on.

“That’s the big ques­tion right now, is whether the Re­gion is go­ing to keep the funds flow­ing, or will they cut it off,” he said. “We’d re­ally like to see the pro­gram con­tinue be­cause it’s do­ing a lot of good here.”

Last year the pro­gram be­came a vic­tim of its own suc­cess, with so many busi­nesses ap­ply­ing for fund­ing, that the Re­gion burned through its en­tire al­lot­ment of cash — more than $400,000 — set aside for this year.

“The suc­cess of the (CIPs) speak for them­selves,” said Mayor Wayne Redekop in a state­ment last year about keep­ing the pro­grams go­ing.

“These pro­grams have helped revitalize not only our down­towns, but also down­town ar­eas through­out Ni­a­gara. Many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are tes­ta­ments to the pos­i­tive im­pact these pro­grams have had since their in­cep­tion. As a whole, we can all ben­e­fit from the in­creased as­sess­ment of newly ren­o­vated com­mer­cial prop­er­ties and the cre­ation of new rental units above store­fronts in Ni­a­gara.”

Through­out Fort Erie, 27 pro­jects tapped into CIP in­cen­tives, with an­other six in the pipe­line.


Fort Erie Coun. Ge­orge McDermott says com­mu­nity im­prove­ment pro­grams have helped spruce up the town’s shop­ping dis­tricts.

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