Developer and restaurateur Mark Croce added to his extensive downtown holdings on Friday by purchasing 286 Franklin Street for $275,000. The 3,200 sq.ft., single-story building (entry image) is literally in front of Croce's Buffalo Chophouse restaurant. It is also next to two other properties owned by Croce: 290 Franklin and 294 Franklin, home of Buckin Buffalo Saloon. Also driving the purchase is the pending arrival of Dinosaur BBQ
in a Croce-owned building at 301 Franklin Street.
Croce doesn't have firm plans for his latest purchase but has already had tenant interest. He's also interested to see what uses Buffalo Rising readers think would be a good fit for that area.
"I've been getting lots of calls from restaurateurs that want to be down here," says Croce. "There has been at least eight inquiries for space on the block due to Dino BBQ coming in. Dino will be transformational to Franklin Street."
Croce believes that Franklin Street north of Chippewa is well on its way to becoming Buffalo's restaurant row and is strategically located to draw from downtown, the Theater District, Medical Campus and throughout the region. He is looking for tenants that are a 'right fit' for the area. He's also seeking one or more tenants for the two-story building at 290 Franklin and though he has no plans to close the bar, would also consider leasing out the building now occupied by Buckin Buffalo if a higher and better use came along.
Croce is both buying and developing. Croce currently has five projects planned or underway downtown:
Curtiss Building- 68-room boutique hotel at the corner of Franklin and Huron streets. Work on this conversion project was postponed and redesigned to reduce the amount of banquet space after Croce purchased the Statler. Croce is currently lining up financing.
Hertz Garage- a debris chute is hanging from the east façade of this six-story building next to the Curtiss. Croce says he has a "high profile commercial tenant for the top two floors of the building."
Saturn Rings Building- Croce has leased the first floor to a commercial tenant in this six-story building at 505 Pearl Street. He also recently received a New York Main Street grant through Buffalo Place for façade work. Architects are finalizing renovation plans for the building. Upper floors may be either apartments and/or office space.
Pearl and Chippewa- Croce is planning a three-story building for the parking lot at the northwest corner of Pearl and Chippewa Street. Lease negotiations are underway with three tenants interested in the building's first floor retail space. The upper two floors will be office space. Design work for the project is expected to be completed soon.
Statler City- Croce has successfully renovated the building's lower three levels. The Rendevous was reopened, the Golden Ballroom and Terrace Room have hosted hundreds of events and banquets, he created the Lobby Bar, renovated the mezzanine meeting rooms, installed new bathrooms and a central kitchen, made both cosmetic and other repairs, and has removed old retail space from the main level.
He is anxious to get going on adding new uses to the building including the upper floors where a mix of hotel rooms, residential space, and possibly a top floor nightclub are planned as market conditions allow. Talks are underway with City and State officials about securing funding to further stabilize the building's exterior that has only seen priority repairs made to date. The holdup with the State money is slowing down Croce's long-term plans for the property, but Croce is confident that the funding will be forthcoming shortly.
"Everyone wants it done yesterday, I do too" says Croce. "These things take time."
Image above by Mike Puma, Entry image from Google Streetview