Downtown development held its own last year, despite a rocky national and local economy. While redevelopment of the Statler remains in serious doubt, plans to renovate two other underutilized properties, the AM&A’s Department Store and the Lafayette Hotel, were announced. 2009 saw 80 new downtown residential units completed and plans unveiled for 294 additional residences in five new projects. 125,000 sq.ft. of office space, on par with what is absorbed annually downtown, was delivered last year in the Avant project.
The largest development to come online was the $85 million Avant on Delaware Avenue (image right). Guests started checking into the 150-room Embassy Suites hotel in July shortly after law firm Damon & Morey occupied two of the property’s five office floors. Buyers started moving into the 26 condominiums located on the building’s top three floors in early-December. The hotel is off to a good start and rumors are circulating that one of the vacant office floors may be converted to additional hotel rooms.
Ellicott Development completed the Pasquale condominium tower in Waterfront Village. Thirty of the building’s 49 units are sold. Prices on the sales closed to date range from $344,000 to $1.32 million for the largest penthouse unit. There are plans for a second tower on the site, but for now, Ellicott is focusing on selling the remaining units in the Pasquale and building several additional townhouses fronting Ojibwa Circle.
Other projects wrapping up in 2009 include the final pieces of Savarino Cos/Avalon Development’s conversion project at 95 Perry Street- five upscale lofts on the building’s second floor and a rooftop patio. The owners of the Tishman Building completed a lobby and ground floor renovation of the Lafayette Square office tower.
A two-story building at the northwest corner of Swan Street and Michigan Avenue received a new brick façade. The 6,032 sq.ft. building is owned by James T. Sandoro.
Streetscape improvements were completed in the 700 Block of Main Street between Tupper and Goodell streets. The block is part of a larger effort to return cars to the downtown pedestrian mall. At the corner of Main and Tupper streets, Avalon Development completed renovations to 715 Main. City Wine Merchant occupies most of the building’s space.
Projects Started in 2009
Kaleida Health’s Global Vascular Institute, a $291 million facility north of Buffalo General Hospital in the Medical Campus, broke ground in August. The ten-story building will house Kaleida’s merged cardiac, stroke, and vascular operations plus an expanded emergency room. The new building will also house research facilities, including the University of Buffalo’s clinical translational research center, on four of the tower’s floors. It will open in late-2011.
Adaptive reuse of two former warehouses got underway in 2009. Signature Development is converting the former AM&A’s warehouses on Washington Street into a mix of 48 lofts and commercial space.
On nearby Elm Street, architect/developer Jake Schneider is turning the Alling & Cory warehouse into Lofts @ 136, an 88 unit project targeting college students (image right). Wilson Farms is leasing commercial space in the building for its first downtown location.
Mark Croce started work on a boutique hotel in the Curtiss building at Huron and Franklin streets. When finished later this year, the property will include 57 rooms, a day spa, full-service restaurant, and banquet facilities.
Elsewhere, an historic brick structure at the northeast corner of Sycamore Street and Michigan Avenue is being converted into a sixteen-bed homeless housing facility by Lakeshore Behavior Health, Inc. James T. Sandoro started work to renovate and expand the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum at Seneca Street and Michigan Avenue.
Laying the groundwork for the Canal Side project, the City started a $4.4 million reconstruction of the historic Inner Harbor street grid. The project will see the construction of four cobblestone streets along the Buffalo River.
Projects Announced in 2009
Rocco Termini’s Signature Development dominated headlines this year announcing two significant renovation projects in the heart of downtown. The prolific developer is partnering with the Hamister Group to convert the AM&A’s Department Store into a mix of office and commercial space, a 117-room Hilton Garden Inn, 28 market-rate senior independent living apartments, and 15 or so apartments.
Termini also unveiled plans to acquire and renovate the circa-1904 Lafayette Hotel. 115 market-rate apartments and 15,000 sq.ft. of commercial space are planned. The combined cost of the AM&A’s and Lafayette Hotel projects is expected to exceed $140 million.
Rocco is also busy on the fringe of downtown. Termini is joining forces with John Olenick, President/CEO of ENrG to convert a five-story brick warehouse at 127 Cherry Street overlooking the Kensington Expressway to office and manufacturing space. ENrG will be relocating from a City-owned business incubator at 155 Rano Street in Black Rock.
Finishing up work on its Allentown Lofts conversion, Kissling Interests has lined up its next downtown residential project. The decrepit Lake Hotel at 201 West Huron Street will be converted into eight upscale apartments in a $1.1 million renovation project expected to start soon.
In the Cobblestone District, a two-story building at 49 Illinois Street is in line for a makeover. Roger Trettel’s1876 Buehl Block LLC plans to renovate the 8,888 sq.ft. property for commercial occupancy.
A circa-1896, four-story building owned by the Buffalo Transportation-Pierce Arrow Museum at 145 Swan Street is getting a new entrance and elevator tower. The 30,000 sq.ft. building will be for museum use.
The University at Buffalo unveiled the design for its Downtown Gateway Complex in May (left). The Educational Opportunity Center will relocate to a four-story building that will connect to the former M. Wile building at 77 Goodell Street. A cornerstone of UB’s downtown campus, the Gateway Complex will provide greater access to UB’s academic and community programs.
On Delaware Avenue, the long-vacant Cloister restaurant at the corner of Virginia Street will be redeveloped by chiropractor Dr. Scott Croce. A two or three-story commercial building is planned The project could also include a residential component.
Despite an economic recession, several significant projects were announced or started last year. Judging by the number of projects under construction or in the development pipeline, there is a lot to look forward to.
Unlike in other cities where projects have been halted mid-construction, Buffalo has just one ghost site- the steel skeleton of the Seneca Creek Buffalo Casino in the Cobblestone District. It may be joined by a new carcass- the venerable Statler Hotel is on the verge of being mothballed if a new owner does not take the keys soon (image left).
2010 should be a make or break year for Canal Side. Will Bass Pro sign on the dotted line and start work on its new store as planned? Will Benderson Development break ground on other portions of the Canal Side development such as the Donovan Building site?
We will also see if Rocco Termini can continue his streak and pull-off his plans for the Lafayette Hotel and AM&A’s store. The Buffalo News reports that tax credit issues remain to be resolved.
Jaeckle Fleischmann and Phillips Lytle, two law firms, and accounting firm Lumsden & McCormick LLP are shopping for space downtown. The companies are attracting the interest of property owners with space to fill and developers hoping to snare an anchor tenant for a new tower. Decisions on whether the firms will renew for their current space or move elsewhere should be made this year.