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Buffalo Booms with Art, Architecture and Food

Philadelphia has picked up on Buffalo’s rebounding neighborhoods. just published a piece about Larissa and Michael Milne’s unexpected visit. The two writers were apparently diverted to Buffalo on their way to visit Niagara Falls. The result is a whirlwind tour of the city, from the West Side to the waterfront.

Personally I was happy to see the article in because back in the day, when we were hatching plans to roll out the inaugural Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, Joe DiPasquale and I paid a visit to the Manayunk Art Festival in Philadelphia, which we understood was the best around. After spending the weekend at the festival, we came back to Buffalo with a better understanding of how Buffalo’s festival should look and act (both good and bad).

Over fifteen years since that fateful visit to Philadelphia, things are rolling right along for Buffalo. Reading articles such as the one in shows how far we have come as a city.

But there is still lots to be done. For example, there are destinations in Downtown Buffalo such as the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum that are brilliant in their own right, but are surrounded by a sea of parking lots and untapped buildings. If this city it to continue to captivate the imagination of travelers such as the two that recently paid a visit from Philadelphia, we must begin to look at the bigger picture. We must ask ourselves how we can still have historic building stock laying idle within a stone’s throw of well-known tourist destinations.


There are still opportunities to be had if we can free up the remaining vacant building stock, or pressure owners to come up with renovation plans. Larkinville and the Genesee Gateway are great examples of forlorn districts that have been reborn, with infill and rehabilitation. The public-private investments have attracted interest from The City, via backings in infrastructure to ensure that the investments are sound. Developers have been rolling out some inspiring projects as of late, but as the well runs dry (fewer available buildings), so will the amount of progress that we will see.

There is no better time than now, to start connecting the dots between development projects. Developer Rocco Termini recently told me that there are fewer and fewer buildings to purchase and rehab, partially because of building owners who refuse to s@#t or get off the pot (my words, not his). In the Google map below, there are a number of underutilized buildings and sprawling parking lots that make for a relatively uninspiring visit to the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum.

The three buildings pictured above can be found on Seneca Street, and appear to be in relatively great shape. So where is the action? Where is the plan? How do we get moving on the last remaining building stock that is untapped and ready for investment? If the six or seven buildings were developed, and The City came up with some key infrastructure investments, we would have a fairly well-rounded district on our hands instead of a couple of isolated investments.

I’m sure that the writers from must have loved their visit to the Transportation Museum, but upon approach they were most likely wondering why the museum sits in the middle of a what could be considered emptiness.



Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • TonMan70

    Start by asking Mr. Sandoro. He owns all the parcels on the whole block, both sides, of Seneca St. on which his museum sits.  And several on adjoining streets too.

  • Michael DiPasquale

    Find out who the owns these properties (Sandoro and others) and encourage a conversation with neighborhood stakeholders, perhaps leading to the creation of a local historic district (if there isn’t one already) to help draw attention to these buildings and provide some level of protection.

  • Rand503

    With all the new development surrounding these buildings, surely the value of them has increased. After all, the owners are probably banking on the fact that the properties are rising in value.  That means their tax assessment should go up.  Which means their taxes should increase.
    At some point, they will realize that they are paying ever increasing taxes on empty buildings that are not generating any revenue, and will be forced to sell.  This is when gentrification is a good thing!

  • runner68

    Rand503 Exactly. This is what many don’t understand about gentrification. In a neighborhood full of renters, gentrification can be a bad thing. When wealthy investors purchase buildings or houses inhabited by renters, they are effectively being pushed out, usually ending up in a far worse renting neighborhood. This is the bad side of gentrification, no doubt. Displacement is a huge problem.
    However, when gentrification begins to happen in a neighborhood full of home or building owners, this is when gentrification is a good thing. There is no displacement. Everyone who lives or occupies the buildings or houses, and owns it too, have the choice to sell. They can stay there, or sell and take the money to the bank. Its up to them. In they end, they win and so does the neighborhood. No one is being pushed out. 
    Two very different sides of gentrification. One positive, the other a bit negative. It just depends on how you look at it. 
    The ignorance that is sometimes spewed on this site regarding gentrification is laughable. If people would actually educate themselves on gentrification instead of just yelling about it, there would be no debate. The discernment between the two sides is a very important factor. I haver no problem with people being anti-gentrification. But if one chooses to be, educate yourself on the subject instead of saying gentrification is always bad. Because we both know its not.

  • needIes

    Are these streets in the areal view marked for parking? I see cars parked in the parking lots but nary a car parked on any street, as with so many other downtown streets. 
    Isn’t the easiest way to devalue urban parking lots (and maybe add value to some vacant buildings) to mark parking on the streets(and re-stripe if necessary)? 
    Wouldn’t it be better if the cars stayed on the street and the buildings stayed on the building parcels?

  • BeatHarvard

    Rand503 These are good points. Renters are susceptible to being priced out of gentrified neighborhoods – just look at NYC’s Lower East Side. But homeowners aren’t totally in the clear. Equity grows but so do property taxes, so it’s also possible for homeowners to get pushed out of gentrified neighborhoods, albeit with a nice consolation prize after selling their property with a nice return.  
    One could also make the argument that gentrification improves the “quality” of renters. That is, individuals with higher income, established careers, families, etc. These renters are more likely to spend money at nicer restaurants, retail, etc, and the gentrification effect snowballs through additional development, lower crime, and yes – higher rent. 
    If the city is serious about redeveloping its urban core, people are going to be priced out. Property owners are not obligated to charge a penny less than the going market rate for their units. We cannot have the best of both worlds — downtown economic development cannot sustainable in perpetuity if units are rented for rock-bottom rates.

  • millertime486

    I believe Ellicott owns some property in this area as well.  I’ve often wondered by residential has not been added to 270 Michigan.  Seems like it would be a great fit.

  • reggdunn

    BeatHarvard Rand503 My personal opinion, having grown up in Buffalo throughout the 80s and 90s, is that almost any sort of gentrification for the city is a good thing. The mass exodus of people from the city over the past few decades has been painfully crippling and even with all of the recent developments, much of the real estate in the city seems to be pretty damn affordable by many standards. You can still buy solid duplexes for example in South Buffalo (close-ish to downtown) or Black Rock or the Westside for $40k-$50k. You can charge modest rent upstairs and live downstairs almost free. This is unheard of in many cities. Gentrification becomes a problem when there are literally no affordable places for lower income people to live in a city. This is not even remotely the case with Buffalo. It may become the case at some point but probably not for several years. One of the unfortunate realities of being a renter is that you’re probably going to have to move a few times in your lifetime. I certainly did until I bought my first home.

  • Buffarcho-regionalist

    art & architecture article-   Literally my cryptonite

  • Jumpingbuffalo

    I have a feeling that anyone who owns property in that section of the city is waiting to see what happens with the new stadium before they move forward.   The owner of the Pierce Arrow museum has stated that he’s not worried that he’ll have to move, but if the stadium is built anywhere in that vicinity, you can bet that developers will be clamoring to buy up land all around there.

  • Cirris

    Jumpingbuffalo  Yeah, I mean it’s really a case of waiting on the Pegulas to make their plan for the Stadium going forward. We all know that Building a new one downtown might be in the future plans for the Pegula and the BIlls. Once that bomb drops then it is off to the races for developers who own property around it.

  • Doug E Fresh

    You’re all missing the point of this article: Philadelphians having something nice to say.

  • Livefyre33

    Any update on the Pierce arrow museum becoming the largest in the USA?

  • Crisaagain

    Hey!  Gentrification is being discussed in this topic!  But, too much of Buffalo is overtaken by landlords and transient tenants, not responsible renters and, the transients are rapidly spreading into the suburbs.  This local site attracts developers.  How many of you guys are aware of Buffalo’s newest developers trying to gentrify, of all public places, the Outer Harbor with private housing that may be outed, at least for now, and, privatizers/gentrificationizers have already overtaken the now unsafe and seriously overpriced small boat harbor?  Right now 23 people are listening.  Are any of you the Safe Harbor Development, LLC???

  • reggdunn

    Of course my favorite bar in the world just issued this statement on gentrification.

  • Soccerdude5719

    Cirris Jumpingbuffalo Not that I want another stadium discussion but this spot would be my choice. it has it drawbacks with nearby homes and possibly moving a few business(chef’s, the the pierece arrow museum) but I would really give a kick in the you know what. I feel like the cobblestone district will eventually fill in but this area shown in the map seems like a spot that can’t gain major traction. I agree any major road work on michigan and perry seem to be in limbo till the stadium is decided.

  • Crisaagain

    Gentlemen and ladies, with 27 listening, please keep it tucked in the back of your minds that the small boat harbor within the Outer Harbor is now a New York STATE PARK which should not be subjected to private ownership or causing discord or a sense of ownership-by-association (with SHD, LLC) among the slip renters there.

  • Crisaagain

    Ah jeese, I get one like and it vanished!

  • Crisaagain