Busy developers make for a crowded map. Over two dozen downtown area projects were finished, announced or under construction last year. Eight projects were finished, ten were unveiled, and 11 were under construction as the year came to a close. The lengthy list does not include projects in the growing Medical Campus or Larkin District.
The largest project completed last year was the redevelopment of the Lafayette Hotel by Rocco Termini. The historic building is now a mix of restaurants, banquet facilities, retail shops, 57 hotel rooms and residences. With 115 upper floor apartments, it is the largest residential project completed downtown since Elk Terminal Lofts kicked-off a loft boomlet over a decade ago.
Other projects completed last year include the expansion of the Buffalo Transporation Pierce Arrow Museum on Seneca Street, the renovation of the Calumet Building on Chippewa, the conversion of the Webb Building from residential lofts to hotel rooms, and three projects in the critical 500 Block of Main Street.
Several significant projects are currently under construction. The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino is finally underway. Nearby, the Donovan Building is getting a new façade and a mix of retail, hotel and office space courtesy of Benderson Development. Across the street, work is underway on the public canals on the Aud Block at Canalside.
Work began on two long-awaited projects last year. In the Theater District, crews are revamping Main Street between Chippewa and Tupper streets to return car traffic to the block. Ellicott Development is at work to bring 42 apartments to the Graystone Hotel, a vacant historic building on S. Johnson Park.
Last year saw the Sabres organization designated developer of the City-owned Webster Block at the foot of Main Street. Work on HARBORCenter is expected to start in the spring. The $123 million project calls for two new ice rinks, a 200-room hotel, parking ramp and retail and restaurant space.
The Elm-Oak corridor promises to be a hotbed of activity this year. Five projects were announced for this eastern edge of downtown in 2012. Uniland Development will begin construction of a six-story, 140,000 sq.ft. administrative center for Catholic Health at the corner of Genesee and Oak streets in the spring.
Elsewhere in the corridor, Jake Schneider announced plans to renovate two historic Swan Street properties into The Hub, a mix of commercial space and 50 loft apartments. A block away, Roger Trettel purchased the Gutman Building and is exploring a mix of uses for the five-story building at Elm and S. Division streets. At 141 Elm Street, TM Montante Development is planning 25 apartments for the Hager Mills property.
Dino BBQ’s stealthy search for a Buffalo location came to an end last year. Mark Croce landed the coveted restaurant for a property he owns at 301 Franklin Street. The 7,200 sq.ft. restaurant will seat 180 diners and has already created interested in what some are calling ‘restaurant row.’
The uncertainty over HSBC’s occupancy at One HSBC Center was settled last year and it was not good news for owner Seneca One Realty. The global financial firm will be vacating over 600,000 sq.ft. of space in the tower when its lease expires later this year. Employees will be split between the HSBC Atrium building on Washington Street and Walden Avenue in Depew. Seneca One and downtown is now faced with a tower that will be soon be 90 percent vacant. The owner is exploring converting the building’s upper floors into hotel and residential space.
Seneca One was not the only owner with bad news last year. The AM&A’s Department Store’s owner, New Horizon Acquisitions, lost a potential buyer/redeveloper when Rocco Termini decided not to pursue a mixed-use project in the vacant building.
One nearly-vacant building got a new owner as the year drew to a close. Hamister Group finalized its purchase of the Tishman Building on Lafayette Square. Hamister is planning a Hilton Garden Inn, apartments and space for its corporate offices in the building. Work is expected to start in the spring.