BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–In a speech that was part prospectus, part pep rally, Mayor Byron Brown delivered his 14th annual State of the City address to a record 2,200 civic, business, and government leaders Thursday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Brown was upbeat in his assessment of the Buffalo and Western New York economy, entitled, “2020 Vision: Focus on the Future,” saying the city’s prospects are strong enough to compete with some of America’s better known technology centers.
“We will advance the vision of the city of Buffalo as a future epicenter of talent, innovation, and inclusion.”
To become that epicenter of talent, the mayor is working the business community on plans to set up Main Street as the “knowledge corridor,” transforming shops and storefronts to high tech offices, and Brown called for revealed the Main Place Mall would evolve from retail to a state-of-the-art office building.
“The Main Place Mall is one of the greatest remaining symbols of the old Buffalo. Now owner Patrick Hotung is ready to transform the mall into a state-of-the-art office building to attract tenants.”
Mayor Brown’s biggest coup of the day–anchoring the Main Street knowledge corridor with the Seneca One Tower where M&T Bank is setting up a technology center, with 1,500 jobs.
Owner Doug Jemal is giving up property tax breaks for Seneca One worth $15 million over the next 12 years, in favor of downtown enhancements.
Brown said the city is matching Jemal’s contribution with $25 million for a total of $40 million, “into a fund that the city is creating which we are calling an Accelerator Fund that will help us with place-making in downtown Buffalo to be able to attract high tech workers to our community.”
Jemal, president and founder of Douglas Development Corporation, explained his generosity, “I want to make it a sense of community, that is what is important. I want it to be contagious so it goes all the way down Main Street and we have a living downtown.”
Mayor Brown also credited Buffalo Public Schools for closing the “digital divide” between city and suburban schools, and he nominated Karen Saxon, the Choral Director at Performing Arts Academy, for the Grammy Music Educator Award.