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Northside Redevelopment Group Gets $300,000 Boost

A new $300,000 pledge by First Niagara will allow the Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC), a community development organization, to refurbish a number of Northside properties for commercial and residential use.

The funding was presented as part of the state's Neighborhood Partnership Program, an effort run by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) to foster community-corporate partnerships through tax credit incentives.

"The Neighborhood Partnership Program is an excellent example of the private sector partnering with community-based organizations to make a difference in the local community. It has been a model to other states throughout the nation," DCED Secretary C. Alan Walker said in a press release.

First Niagrara became the NSLC's fifth corporate partner under the program, joining H.J. Heinz Co., The Pittsburgh Steelers, and others, when it presented its pledge in front of one Northside property set for rehab.

"It's the perfect 'before and after' picture. It's two vacant storefronts, buildings built in the mid-1800s, some of the oldest buildings on the street — historic but quite simple — and really in need of some tender love and care. The project will restore the two retail storefronts and the upstairs spaces will be available as office space or apartments," said Mark Fatla, NSLC executive director.

The First Niagara pledge will support this and similar work through annual installments of $50,000 over a period of six years, the minimum time span allowable under the program. The consistency of the funding, Fatla said, will allow the group to think long term.

"Nonprofits often struggle from year to year finding the resources. Real estate doesn't happen overnight. It takes years to make a project work and having that stable funding base allows you to take that longer-term view," he said.

But Fatla said even with the new and steady funding, the group will have to be very particular about which projects it undertakes.

"It's really the strategic properties that are key to the neighborhoods… We can't do everything, but we take on the key ones that will stimulate neighborhood markets," he said.