The Levesque Institute at Niagara University, as part of a coalition of diverse organizations committed to the revitalization of the City of Niagara Falls, has formed a Niagara Falls Neighborhood Evaluation Committee. The committee’s first project is a comprehensive data collection that will provide information for a future neighborhood assessment to evaluate housing market conditions in the midtown area of the City of Niagara Falls.

The committee brings together a wide range of organizations that play key roles in driving positive change in housing and neighborhood redevelopment. The founding committee consists of the City of Niagara Falls Community Development, Niagara Orleans Regional Land Improvement Corp., (NORLIC), Niagara Area Habitat for Humanity, Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), and Niagara University. This group is dedicated to creating a vibrant, equitable, and inclusive community through research, community engagement, identification of grants and funding, and the development of future housing and neighborhood initiatives.

Dr. Karen Kwandrans, associate vice president of strategic and external relations at Niagara University, emphasized the significance of the collaboration. “The expertise and diversity within the Niagara Falls Neighborhood Evaluation Committee is a testament to our shared commitment to neighborhood revitalization,” she said. “This partnership exemplifies the power of collective action in community redevelopment. The data collected will be instrumental in the creation of future development initiatives and policies.”

“None of us can do the work of neighborhood revitalization alone,” Gina Beam, executive director of Niagara Area Habitat for Humanity, added. “Through the work of this committee, I believe Niagara Falls will be positioned to see progress made in affordable housing and community building. It starts with this assessment work to stabilize neighborhoods. Niagara Area Habitat for Humanity is committed to building and rehabilitating homes to make them safe and affordable for our neighbors in Niagara Falls."

LaBella Associates has been awarded the contract to provide critical services for the study and will play a vital role in executing the neighborhood assessment, which will include data collection using GIS mapping and street-level assessments, analysis, community engagement activities, and the establishment of a data management system. 

The committee and LaBella are dedicated to collaborating closely with local organizations, residents, and businesses to ensure that the data collected and input truly reflects the needs of the stakeholders. This effort will encourage meaningful community engagement so that all voices can be heard.

“The work we are doing, gathering data, will help us to assess the health of our housing stock and assist us in directing resources to help stabilize and revitalize the community in a thoughtful and productive manner,” said Kevin Forma, director of planning & environmental, City of Niagara Falls. “The partnership with Niagara University and others is an open and collaborative effort by all those groups who have a vested interest in the Niagara Falls community.”

“We are thrilled to be part of this group studying the housing conditions in a neighborhood that needs more attention to stabilize and revitalize,” said Matthew Chavez, project manager at Niagara Orleans Regional Land Improvement Corp. “As the local Land Bank, our mission is the elimination of distressed properties, and knowing where they are most prevalent is invaluable. We believe this study will allow us to focus our efforts on the most critical areas of distress, where our interventions may go the farthest.”

The assessment was made possible through funding provided by LISC.

“Uplifting communities starts with a comprehensive understanding of where they stand and what they need to move forward, and LISC NY is proud to join the Niagara Falls Evaluation Committee and support this underserved community,” said Tyra Johnson Hux, WNY operations director, LISC NY. “We’re thankful to our partners for working together to bring this committee and housing market study to fruition, and we look forward to the policies that will come from this work and revitalize Niagara Falls.”

For more information about the committee or assessment, please contact Dr. Karen Kwandrans at 716-286-8559.