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Huron is Hot, But There’s Room for Improvement

Mark Croce’s boutique hotel at the corner of W. Huron and Franklin streets received a green light from the Buffalo Planning Board on Tuesday.  The $19 million development is the latest of several significant development projects on Huron Street since 2002.  Nine projects, representing $188 million in investment has produced 603 new or remodeled hotel rooms, 681,000 sq.ft. of multi-tenant office space, 39,500 sq.ft. of retail space, and up to 34 residences.  Add the nearby Hampton Inn and potentially new rooms at the Statler and the result is nearly 1000 hotel rooms in a hotel row.  

One of downtown’s weaknesses is most development is stretched along Main Street.  Compared to other cities, downtown is linear, following Main Street north and south along the free fare zone of the light rail system.  Few of downtowns east-west streets are densely developed, expanding downtown’s boundaries to connect to nearby neighborhoods.  Court and Church are nearly fully developed, but lack energy.  Chippewa Street has seen investment but is relatively dark during the day.  Huron is a chance to get it right. 

The Huron corridor is anchored by two nodes of development- Fountain Plaza and a revitalized lower Delaware Avenue.  In between is a blank slate.  By happenstance, significant development has occurred already creating major change along Huron.

HURON.pngA. Lake Hotel
This long-vacant building in the West Village is being targeted for a $1.1 million makeover by Kissling Interests.  Eight rental units are planned.  Carmina Wood Morris is designing the project that could be underway this year and be completed in late 2010.

B. Avant
The former Dulski Federal Building is now home to a 150 room Embassy Suites hotel, five floors of office space anchored by law firm Damon and Morey, along with 26 luxury condos on the upper three floors.  The $85 million project was developed by Uniland Development.

C. Boutique Hotel
The six-story, terra cotta clad building at the corner of Franklin and Huron is undergoing a $19 million renovation by Mark Croce.  Opening in fall 2010, the hotel will feature 59 rooms, a spa, and banquet facilities. 

D. Hyatt Renovation
The Hyatt recently completed a $13.5 million renovation of its 396 rooms and common areas. 

E. Old Editions
Old Editions Bookshop & Gallery on the corner of Oak and Huron opened in 2002.  With over 35,000 sq.ft. of space, it is one of the country’s largest antiquarian bookstores.

F. Electric Tower
Iskalo Development invested over $12 million to transform the former local headquarters for Niagara Mohawk into a modern, multi-tenant office building.  Eisenwien & Johnson architects designed the building which opened in 1912.

G. 5 E. Huron Street
Iskalo is seeking a restaurant or retail tenant for 5 E. Huron Street overlooking Roosevelt Plaza.  The 4,300 sq.ft. structure with a glazed tile exterior is the former home of Howard’s Shoes and was originally a Waldorf restaurant.

H. New Era Cap Co. HQs
New Era spent $10 million renovating the former Federal Reserve Building into its new corporate offices along with a retail outlet along Delaware Avenue.

I. Niagara Center
Many of the federal tenants that relocated from the Dulski Building ended up in the Niagara Center office building at 130 S. Elmwood Avenue developed by Uniland and Acquest.  The $48 million, 288,000 sq.ft. office building was completed in early-2005 and is nearly full.

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Huron is clearly making strides, but lacks a coherent streetscape with little to no retail space.  There are few street trees.  Two vast surface parking lots mar the corner of Franklin Street.  The Augsburger parking ramp’s promised commercial space on its ground floor never materialized.  A car repair facility and two, one-story buildings aren’t adding much to the street.

More energy, foot traffic, and development has a snowball effect however.  Developers gravitate toward places where they see investment happening.  Huron is emerging as a reinvigorated commercial corridor but there’s room for more, and better.

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