Looking on the brighter side

Putting a priority on the waterfront is a smart step in city development.

Being upbeat in Western New York and Chautauqua County is not easy. Over the last four decades, we have seen plenty of loss and heartache in terms of population decline with an exodus of business and industry.

Just when you thought things hit rock bottom, it somehow got worse. So much pain over too many years leads to a good dose of skepticism. It is a huge reality we have to overcome.

Those who don’t live here — and are visiting or considering making an investment with business and property — are all well aware of the dark cloud that hangs over our region. We seem to almost willingly share it.

Buffalo was in the same boat until recently. Investments by New York state into the Queen City’s medical corridor and the Solar City project have brought a new and refreshing positive attitude.

We are on the cusp of that, if we can just believe.

One of the biggest questions every local and state official hears is what is happening with Athenex, which is supposed to be a catalyst for 900 jobs. Longtime area residents become doubtful and overly impatient. The more time it takes for shovels to hit the ground, the greater the negativity grows.

It is far from fair.

When state Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to Dunkirk in February 2016 to announce the project, it was quite clear it was not going to be something that happened overnight. One of those dates discussed that day even included 2019.

Besides, anyone who thinks a project being driven by the state will move fast forgets a major premise: Nothing in government happens quickly — with the exception of local tax and fee increases.

During a visit to the United Senior Citizens group at the Fredonia Beaver Club this week, I was reminded by a number of engaged residents about offering updates on important area issues. Most of these are filled with optimistic news — similar to the Athenex project. But they are not happening as quickly as one would hope.

That list includes:

¯ The future of Brooks Hospital. The list of 24 potential relocation sites has been whittled down to two with a decision due soon. Though the process has taken much longer than what was first announced last September — a 60-day timeline that has reached 11 months — the issue is not without controversy. Many in region would rather have the current and outdated site at Sixth Street at Central Avenue renovated. State funding to the tune of more than $70 million for the project, however, is specifically for a new location. In the future, the community will be asked to help in contributions toward the building effort.

¯ A new hotel in Dunkirk. Because we live here, we do not consider the need for lodging. That does not mean there is not a market for it at the waterfront. Remember, if a new facility locates next to the Clarion Hotel Marina and Conference Center, it will be a development with private dollars. That’s always a positive.

¯ Water district progress. See above, near the Athenex paragraph. Government is driving this initiative and it is not moving fast enough. One thing, however, is certain. New York state appreciates municipalities working together on this effort. Even Athenex officials are pleased with the district as Fredonia continues to separate itself from this collaboration.

¯ Waterfront development. Dunkirk and its planners continue to focus on activity at and near Lake Erie. Last Sunday, City Editor Nicole Gugino highlighted the brownfield opportunity area, which includes Lake Shore Drive. It has the potential to become the heart of the city. Obviously, people will come to the water in the summer. What’s needed next in the proposal is an attraction for the other eight months, specifically winter.

Ice skating, anyone?

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.