The City recently sent out a Request for Proposals for 667 Main Street (see here). While it’s great that The City is trying to get out of the real estate business, this is one building that should not simply be unloaded without proper thought and due diligence. Why? Because it’s home to the city’s highly ranked Hostel Buffalo-Niagara. Over the years, this hostel has managed to make a name for itself locally and internationally as a clean and welcoming dwelling in Downtown Buffalo. Before all of the developers showed up to get a piece of the action, this hostel quietly ran its operations in an efficient and effective manner.
Now, RFPs are due to The City tomorrow, and the hostel’s board has hardly had time to react. Thankfully, board members are not quite ready to roll over. Instead, they are putting their best feet forward, and will be submitting their own proposal. While they do not have deep pockets, they have spirit and clout… and the ability to raise the necessary funds to purchase the building. They also know how to operated a very successful hostel that has been around since 1996.
Hostel Buffalo-Niagara is a cozy communal homestead in downtown. Offering a fully equipped kitchen, lounges, wi-fi, laundry, book exchange, bicycle share & local knowledgable staff!
The only problem is that the board knows that it is going to be facing some big guns in the form of investors and developers. I spoke to board member Tony Caferro who told me that, given a chance, the hostel could renovate the other half of the building, which is currently in total disrepair. They have the resources to get the job done, if they are allowed to stave off other bidders with deep pockets. “We kind of got sideswiped with all of this,” said Tony. “We didn’t see it coming. Now the city of Buffalo could lose this incredible asset. The hostel has become a viable place for all sorts of people to stay. It’s a non-profit that a lot of people are rallying behind at the moment. If a developer buys it, chances are they would look at the bottom line and see that there is more money to be made, regardless whether the hostel is good for the community or not. We have put together our own proposal, where we are allowed to raise money and renovate the building ourselves. The hostel has been there for 20 years, and suddenly it’s in jeopardy. We’ve been trying to scramble, but we need more time. Hopefully the City sees what we have done for Buffalo and gives us right of first refusal.”
One would think that a non-profit that has been doing the right thing in Buffalo for 20 years would at least be given consideration. Or maybe there’s another plan that the City can work out that would benefit all parties. Regardless, the City should take a stand to make sure that this incredible Buffalo asset is not lost. Tony mentioned that if they lose this space on Main Street, that’s pretty much the end of the hostel. Unless the City does what’s right and figures out how to resolve the issue.
Great cities have hostels. These are places where a wide variety of people say, from hip business professionals to musicians. It’s a lifestyle choice. The people that choose to stay in hostels do it for a variety of reasons. They are inexpensive, they are social, they are generally socially minded, they offer an inside look into their surroundings, they have conveniences that other short term and extended stays don’t have, and the cities that have them covet them.
“We’re not walking into City Hall begging,” Tony told me. “We’re rolling with the punches and trying to figure out how to save ourselves in the best way that we can. “We know that we can convert the rest of the building into longterm house, and by doing so, we will be able to save the hostel. We’re just asking for a chance to work this out – we have a 30-day battle on our hands. Tomorrow morning, we’re marching from the hostel to City Hall with our proposal in hand.”