The Erie Downtown Development Corp. is about to receive another infusion of cash.
This time it's $1.5 million from Erie-based Marquette Savings Bank.
The bank's investment brings to $21.5 million the amount that's been formally pledged to the EDDC's Erie Equity Fund, which plans to use the money to begin buying and renovating properties in downtown Erie.
Erie's effort, led by Erie Insurance, has been patterned after the nationally recognized work of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., which has revitalized what had been one of the city's most depressed and dangerous areas.
Michael B. Edwards, CEO of Marquette, said he thinks the same sort of transformation can take place in Erie.
"The EDDC plan is following a model with a proven track record," he said in a statement. "What happened in Cincinnati can happen here. And the encouraging thing is there are others who feel the same way. Change is in the air and I really believe Erie's best days are ahead of us. We want to be part of that picture."
In addition to investing $1.5 million, Marquette is donating $150,000 -- $50,000 a year for three years -- for the operating fund of the EDDC.
Marquette had actually hoped to invest even more.
Edwards said the bank had wanted to invest $2.5 million in the Erie Equity Fund, but that amount exceeded the percentage allowed by state banking regulators for a bank of its size. He explained that the bank worked with regulators for weeks to see if there might be a way to allow for a larger investment.
"We are pleased to be able to do $1.5 million," he said. "We don't want to feel bad about that."
Marquette's investment in EDDC follows recent investments by the bank of $300,000 each in the Our West Bayfront initiative and the Sisters of Saint Joseph Neighborhood Networks in Little Italy.
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Marquette's investment comes on top of investments from Erie Insurance, a private investor, Erie Community Foundation, Gannon University, Northwest Bank.
Pete Sitter, senior vice president of marketing for Marquette, said the value of the EDDC is its ability to leverage money, complete a variety of projects and encourage other developers to begin investing in Erie.
"I don't think you can change a city with one or two projects, but I think you can get the momentum going," he said.
Edwards acknowledges that the bank and other investors are taking a risk. But he's feeling confident that it will pay off.
"I think 10 years from now we will look back and be surprised at the transformation," he said.
Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNMartin.
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