Things are moving forward in the Larkin District on a daily basis and the official opening of the Larkin streetscape is a great example of progress. Five years ago Larkin Development Group approached the UB School of Architecture and Planning to create a master plan for the area and by partnering with First Niagara, part of that plan has come to fruition in the streetscape project.
The goal of the streetscape restoration was not only for aesthetic purposes, but to create "a vibrant, mixed-use, commercial, residential, and retail environment" says Larkin Development managing partner Howard Zemsky. Thanks and praises went to many different groups and individuals, but particularly to First Niagara. "They played an instrumental role literally and figuratively for the future of the Larkin District," declared Zemsky.
First Niagara committed $1.5 million toward streetscape improvements.
"When we made our decision to move our corporate headquarters to the City of Buffalo, we knew that the Larkin District was where we wanted to be," First Niagara President and CEO John R. Koelmel said. "Howard Zemsky and the Larkin Development Group exemplify innovation, commitment and perseverance. Those attributes mirror our corporate culture, and we felt that there were clear synergies for First Niagara and Larkin Development to collaborate on this project together."
Byron Brown was present at the Wednesday dedication ceremony because of the City's $200,000 investment in the project. Brown said that Larkin Development Group is a "new model for corporate leadership" and he looks forward to partnering with the developers in the future.
National Grid also provided a $250,000 grant from its urban corridor revitalization program, one of more than a dozen economic development programs the company manages to encourage and support business and community development in upstate New York.
With the help of the Old First Ward community leader Laura Kelly, the project was advanced by award from New York State's Main Street Program. Without the grant the project would have been near impossible to complete. There has been over $2 million spent in the last nine months to see the streetscape project completed. The result is beautiful urban scenery with several rehabilitation projects in the area starting or finished.
The improvements include newly paved streets, bikelanes, completely redone sidewalks, curbs, new trees, new streetlights, and multiple sections of plantings for small shrubs and trees. The recently completed restoration of the Schaefer building (740 Seneca) which now houses Young + Wright Architects also adds to the beauty of the street. The sidewalk on Van Rensselaer Street (between Seneca and Exchange) has buried radiant heating lines to ensure that pedestrians do not have to wait for snow removal. No expense or detail was spared by Larkin Development Group and it really shows.
It's not much of a stretch to say that the Larkin District will be a bustling and beautiful community in the near future. There has already been great investment and interest, which will only continue to gain momentum. It really has to be seen to be fully appreciated and to experience the incredible potential that this area has for retail, commerce, and residences.