The Downtown Housing Tour, as a part of Buffalo Old Home Week (BOHW), happily exceeded my expectations. An impressive amount of people came downtown for an intimate glimpse at what the new loft craze is all about.
This offered a wide variety of folks an opportunity to see, first-hand, this exciting type of city living. Our small downtown kept this tour comfortably walkable on a rather humid afternoon.
Personally, this was the first time I had ever stepped into any of the new lofts, despite my constant blogging about the advantages of downtown life. Prior to this, all I had seen were pictures. Photographs donit do these living spaces much justice. Being there in person is the best way to experience a Downtown Buffalo on the cusp of a massive regeneration.
Working our way south from Allentown, my girlfriend (photographer of this slideshow) and I explored everything on the mostly-solid streetscape of Main through the Theater district (Granite Works, Sidway, Market Arcade). We made our way toward the developing iGenesee Villagei where lofts (Ellicott Lofts, IS Lofts, Oak School Lofts) have been built along Ellicott and Oak streets on the northeastern fringe of downtown.
Toward the middle-section of Downtown was the Holling Place Apartments, and nearly-completed iBuehl Block,i a miraculous conversion of a forgotten corner gem that was once featured in a Charles Burchfield Painting. Inward, on Main St., next to the Hyatt is the Belesario Lofts, a collection of majestically grand spacesotrue luxury lofts.
Down in the emerging Cobblestone District, Savarino Construction is working on the Cobblestone Lofts, a massive complex of, yes, Condos! When these are completed, within a year or two, people will have the option of buying in the heart of an upcoming creative urban district. Their office building is almost complete, with a few tenants already lined up, according to some circulating rumors. A brisk walk to the east is the Lofts at Elk Terminal, one of the very first pioneers of Downtown Living. Once a mundane loading dock, the building has become a collection of spacious, luxurious modern living spaces.
This Downtown living trend has all seemed to have happened so fast, just within the past few years. Getting banks to bankroll these projects has been difficult proposition, so a lot of grants and subsidies have been utilized. As a result, many of these new units are rent-controlled or income-restricted, making downtown living affordable to those of more modest means. The Holling Place has a strict income cap which means many apartments average about $550 a month. 10 floors of uber-affordable yet fresh, new and modern apartments, gives the impressive building the feel of a luxury college dorm. Having Club Diablo and Mohawk Place within spitting distance is a nice amenity.
I met some of the inhabitants of these great living spaces, a diverse bunch in age and occupation. They all seemed to greatly enjoy their urban living experiences. Many agreed that there certainly could be more interesting places to walk to though. This will undoubtedly happen when a greater density of new downtown housing is built. The next step is to come up with a coordinated plan of concentrating new conversions and construction within specifically-designated new neighborhoods. The idea is to concentrate enough of a icritical massi of residents within a small area to create ripe conditions for retail to thrive. When residents have a good selection of vital services and shopping within an easy walk, downtown living will become even more attractive and residential demand rapidly increase.
This first batch of lofts and apartments I saw has been essentially an experiment to see if there was any real demand for living in Downtown Buffalo. From the very few vacancies, we can safely deduce the demand is there and building more of these is a no-brainer. Itis also safe to say that more developers and, more importantly, the local banks, are cordially invited to step up to the plate and help get the downtown ball rolling even faster.
The road toward vibrant downtown living has certainly been paved.