NORTH TONAWANDA — In March, Lou Visone approached the North Tonawanda Common Council to express concern that the industrial aesthetic along River Road was discouraging prospective tenants from renting apartments at his development firm's new complex.
But by Tuesday, when Visone joined with local officials to cut a ribbon signaling the official opening of the 600 River Road Apartments, he said things had gotten significantly better.
"It absolutely has been improved," Visone said. "There's been a lot of attention given to the concerns on River Road and people are really stepping up to the plate to help out."
After nearly two years of construction and two and a half year remediation process through the New York State Brownfield program, the property opened Tuesday with an occupancy of approximately 30 percent. He said interest in the apartments jumped after area businesses were asked to clean up their properties.
The complex features one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in a pair of four-story buildings directly bordering the Niagara River, along with several two- and three-bedroom townhouses, all with private balconies and some with attached garages. Units range in rent from $1,600 for one-bedroom units to $3,100 for the three-bedroom units.
The property will also soon have a pool and club house, which are under construction and expected to be completed within the next six months. A boat dock and dog park will be also be installed and are expected to be completed by spring 2020. The units also come with business-class internet, cable, in-unit laundry facilities and stainless steel appliances.
Much of Western New York's waterfront has historically been used for heavy industrial purposes, and 600 River Road is no exception. Local officials commended Visone's decision to convert the old Tonawanda Iron Works property into apartments and said that the move will likely provide the owners of neighboring properties with an incentive to modernize.
"(The industrial) era is over, and what happened was so many of these businesses just abandoned their facilities, leaving the communities to have to just look at this wasteland, a reminder of their former glory days," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
"This is what it takes, it takes someone who says 'I can transform this into a place that people want to live and congregate and build their lives,' and (VisoneCo) has accomplished that today."
The $20 million project was made possible with assistance from New York State Brownfield program as well as from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency. According to Mike Zimmerman, executive director of the Lumber City Development Corporation, the complex will benefit from a Brownfield tax credit valued at about $2 million as well as a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement via the Niagara County Industrial Agency.
Part of the city's long-term development master plan, known as the NT Momentum plan, involves a reimagining of River Road as a more welcoming corridor and entrance to the city. Officials like Mayor Art Pappas say the new apartment complex is a strong step in that direction.
"This project is a catalyst for the transition of this old, industrial area into what eventually...is going to become a beautiful boulevard of some kind," Pappas said. "Our area is on the rise, things are moving in a great direction."
Visone said that the completion of the apartment complex doesn't mean his company is finished investing in the North Tonawanda Waterfront. Visone has also acquired the property at 624 River Road, where he would like to build a restaurant with a large waterfront patio.
For more information about the apartments, go to 600river.com, or visit the site in person at 600 River Road, North Tonawanda.