By Lorne Opler:
What excites Buffalonians about Buffalo? For some, it's a Bills win... or a Sabres win. For others, it's a lazy summer Sunday on the water. And still for others, it could be the many scenes around the city - music, food, theater... so many more. What excites me? The future. The future of Buffalo to be exact. And that future became a lot brighter with the news last week that legislation to increase the cap on historic tax credits is likely to pass and be signed by the governor next week. That means developers will able to receive more than double the credits they are eligible for today - up to $12 million from the current five million.
Why does that excite me? Because with this legislation, big ticket renewal projects that are just itching to get started will now be able to. And the list is long, from the AM&A's renovation to the restoration of the Olmsted-Richardson Complex; from the conversion of the Tishman building into a Hilton Hotel to the resurrection of the Trico building. And that's just the beginning. Developers now have more incentive, more security, and less risk to move forward.
Why else does this excite me? It was five years ago this summer that I moved to Buffalo for a brief time to attend school. It was August 2007, and I was thrilled to be able to live in Buffalo, my dad's birthplace. The city, as seen from the eyes of this newcomer, was at the cusp of possibility. Everywhere I turned, every neighborhood I cycled through, there was one word that kept repeating itself within me. Imagine. Imagine what this house could look like. Or this street. Or this building. This park. This city.
Five years after my brief stay in your city, there's less reason to imagine and more reason to believe. Five years ago, I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Lafayette just to imagine what it could look like if fully restored. Today, I no longer have to imagine. This restored and resplendent edifice, in my opinion, is more sumptuous, more stately, dignified, and opulent than any of the best hotels here in Toronto. I would "qvell" as we say in Yiddish, to live there. And obviously, I'm not the only one, because demand for one of its rental apartment units is strong. The renaissance of the Hotel Lafayette is why I believe in the future of Buffalo. That's also why I believe in the value of upping the tax credit cap on historic properties. Because if Rocco Termini could create such a masterpiece with only five million dollars in tax credits, imagine what he and his developer colleagues will do with more than twice that amount.
When I returned to Toronto in the winter of 2008, I remember telling myself, that Buffalo will be a different city in five years time. I no longer have to imagine that, because it already is. And with more historic tax credits on the way, it will be splendidly different again in another five years. Enough of a reason for me to start imagining (and visiting) all over again.