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What’s Happening: 500 Block of Main Street and Environs

The center of downtown is stirring and it has been a long time in coming.  The 500 block of Main Street has been shabby since at least the early-1980’s when the Hyatt Hotel opened its doors.  Three decades of abandonment is being erased one building at a time.  Projects on surrounding blocks are creating some momentum for the area.

Give credit to three pioneers: the architectural firm of Carmina Wood Morris, restaurateur Don Warfe and developer Roger Trettel.  Carmina Wood Morris’ purchase and renovation of the former McDonald’s building at Main and Mohawk (1 on map) in 2004 kicked-off the latest wave of investment in the 400 and 500 blocks of Main.  The architecture and engineering firm occupies the six-story building’s top two floors.  The company has been patiently waiting for a retail or restaurant tenant for the ground floor and has finally landed one.  A café will be opening soon in the building’s ground floor and discussions are underway with a tenant to take the empty second floor.

500blkmap.bmpIn a leap of faith, Don Warfe purchased 501 Main in 2008 and put two full-floor residences in the building’s upper floors and is planning a Brodo-to-Go for the first floor (2).  It was the first significant investment on this highly visible block that has lost nearly all of its retail and restaurant tenants over the prior decade.  Recessed patios behind the facade overlook Main Street from the second and third floor residences (photo below).

IMG_0733.jpgRoger Trettel was next.  He combined and renovated both 523 Main and 502 Washington Street (3).  The complex houses Main Washington Exchange, a shared workspace facility.  Trettel has plans for another 500 block property (details coming soon). 

Trettel also opened Storage Central at 290-96 Ellicott Street (4) and is planning to renovate the former Emulso Corporation building at 301 Ellicott for up to eight loft apartments that will have access to indoor parking (5).  Those properties are contiguous to the Buehl Block and 285 Ellicott Street rehab projects (6) that Trettel opened a few years ago.

Other pieces have fallen into place.  Iskalo development renovated the Howard’s Shoes building at Genesee and Washington Streets (7).  A unique tenant is said to be interested in the building that fronts Roosevelt Plaza and Iskalo’s rehabbed Electric Tower.  WNY Books Arts Center moved into a building at Mohawk and Washington (8).  Erin Epstein renovated a former printing plant into Holling Place apartments (9) and is converting a warehouse into three, two-family condos across the street (10).

And the momentum appears to be increasing.  Back on Ellicott Street, Rocco Termini has purchased the former Horton Coffee Co. building at 338 Ellicott and plans to renovate it to house a family-style restaurant (11).

Law firm Ricotta and Visco is converting 496 Main Street into its new home.  The four-story building is currently gutted (12 and bottom image). 

On the 400 block of Main, the end use of the converted Courtyard Mall (13) has drawn criticism, but Ellicott Developments redevelopment of the Baker Shoe complex holds promise.  The development fronts both Main and Pearl streets and will include residential and commercial space (14). 

At 477 Main Street, The Martin Group is renovating the long-vacant Wendy’s restaurant as its new headquarters (15).  The non-descript building will get a 1,500 sq.ft. second floor addition, a new façade and a balcony overlooking Main Street.

Hamister Co. is still eyeing the Tishman Building overlooking Lafayette Square for a reuse project (16).  A mix of office, residential and hotel space is possible. 

There are still too many vacant buildings in the 500 block but interest appears high. 

Plans for the Canvas Bar at 537 Main Street (17) have shifted to Hertel Avenue, but neighbors say the building is once again under contract for sale.  There is a group trying to make something happen with the Texas Red Hots and adjacent building at 5-9 Genesee Street (18) but needs City help and the project is complicated by a bankruptcy by the owner.

Nearby on Pearl Street, Olympic Towers’ owner is evaluating purchase offers from at least two groups, both have previously owned the building according to sources.  And in the ‘one can only hope’ department, there’s a rumor of a development group eyeing the surface parking lot at Pearl and Huron for a mid-rise, mixed-use project. 


Written by WCPerspective


Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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  • BuffaloBeaux

    thanks so much for putting a little guide like this together! its nice to see a breakdown of the projects along with pictures, updates in where the renovations are and where all these projects are in relation to each other to give us a better perspective! it’s all absolutely wonderful. thanks again, wcperspective!

  • RaChaCha

    Obviously this article is a dreamy fabrication. WCP, DON’T YOU KNOW that the transit mall killed Main Street and DON’T YOU KNOW that Main Street won’t come back till the cars return–?! WE ALL KNOW no developer in their right mind will invest in buildings folks can’t park in front of or next to.
    WCP, clearly you were taken in by a vision plan that some dreamy developers put together for what they would would do IF ONLY the public would invest 10$ of Million$ to bring the cars back. Until then, clearly Main Street will just have to sit and rot.

  • RumRunner

    That may be true for the fat and lazy masses, but thankfully there’s an increasing number of both city residents and tourists who are not nearly as car-focused and will find these stores/shops more than useful.

  • Travelrrr

    Being facetious.
    This is great news (apart from the horrific Courtyard Mall), all of which I find so fascinating. Buffalo is not unique in this trend to reclaim previously abandoned city centers, but the city certainly seems to be moving in that direction more quickly and effectively than many of our “peer cities” such as Cleveland, etc. Anyone have any thoughts as to why this may be?

  • brownteeth

    Do you think traffic returning to Main street will have a negative impact from where it is now? There seems to be residential and office space popping up but not much in the way of retail or restaurants. I think adding vehicles will help bring people down Main that would not go there otherwise. I say whatever it takes to get more of a presence of people, be it pedestrians, bikes or cars, can only help spur more development. It is indeed great to see development happening regardless.

  • Larry Sellers

    Thanks for this write-up. Keeping up on these development projects is my favorite part of BR.
    – Roosevelt Square has so much potential. Hopefully something develops soon.
    – If someone took on that corner lot it would be amazing. A new build down here would be a huge boost. Same goes for the Court St. lot between Franklin and Pearl.
    – Any word on the Curtiss building?

  • Greg

    I think the larger issue is not parking, but residency. Transit Corridors tend to have high density. Unfortunately, many residential buildings were demolished prior to the rail construction. If the Downtown population were actually more than 2000 people, maybe there would be more of a need to use the rail, and less need to have cars on main street.

  • 16thStreet

    This is awesome! I love going DT and seeing all the activity. Little by little…

  • whatever

    Rach>”WCP, DON’T YOU KNOW that the transit mall killed Main Street and DON’T YOU KNOW that Main Street won’t come back till the cars return”
    Rach, isn’t it interesting – perhaps you’ll dismiss as coincidence – how much of the 500 block stuff happened after a political consensus finally emerged (during Masiello years) to return cars to Main St downtown in the long term, and then real visible work toward that end was made during Brown’s term in 700 block and detailed planning progressing for 600 block?
    Do you suppose if Masiello & Brown had stayed the course and kept saying all along to leave downtown Main St a car-free pedestrian mall, would we be seeing this same level – such as it is – of greater long term interest from investors & developers in the 500?

  • jwright

    Main St. is still too desolate, esp after 6:00 pm, but I keep thinking about how the whole stretch looked when I was a kid… think nuclear holocaust. So it’s come an amazingly long way.

  • RaChaCha

    Tonight is Curtain Up! C’mon down and see Main Street packed after 6PM — and much later.

  • Lego1981

    So what is the deal with Brodo? 3 years later and it’s still not here.

  • nomadbuffalo

    Check out what’s happening at 515 Main Street too!!!
    Modern & affordable open-air artists’ spaces in the heart of downtown Buffalo, surrounded by many newly renovated buildings and in-progress projects, including luxury lofts across the street. Building features high ceilings and tons of natural light, located across from the Hyatt Hotel and steps from Fountain Plaza, Lafayette Square, free Main St train and just blocks from the Theater District, CEPA, Squeaky Wheel, The WNY Book Arts Center and more. Rents start at $275/month and include all utilities, WIFI, access to a 1000 sq foot workspace and lounge, painter’s sink and new gallery space with huge store-front windows in a high traffic area. Annual rent includes solo show in the gallery and several group shows for all artists, with no commission on sales.
    Building owner, Roger Trettel, Property Manager, Mark Schroeder and Gallery/Artists’ Manager, Erica Eichelkraut, collaborated to turn an empty building into this creative collective, furthering the rebirth of the 500 block of Main St.

  • Lego1981

    I checked the link out, looks awesome!!!!