The Buffalo Christian Center is closing its doors at 512 Pearl Street in the Theater District. The ornate property at the corner of Pearl and W. Tupper streets is being sold to Ellicott Development Company and will be redeveloped for a mix of uses. Ellicott expects to close on the purchase next week.
Fifteen months ago, new BCC leadership looked at how its unique building could be better leveraged to accomplish the organization’s mission: to serve local at-risk youth with programs that make a significant impact on their lives. Through this strategic process, leadership learned that the building would need over $5 million in renovations. Leadership talked with key stakeholders – including industry experts, community leaders, and top donors – about what this investment would mean practically. It also had a consulting group create a business plan that accounted for the large capital expenditures needed to renovate the building.
After reviewing all the facts, BCC leadership came to the conclusion that the best course of action was to sell the building for two reasons. First, the likelihood of procuring the $5 million was low. Second, and more importantly, the level of impact the organization would have on the community would not correlate with the dollar amount needed to modernize the building. Leadership then considered which paths would allow the organization to best accomplish its mission once it moved on from 512 Pearl Street. Some of the options reviewed included relocating, merging, and dissolving.
Ultimately, BCC leadership determined that the best way to accomplish its mission was to spin off its three primary programs to reputable organizations. Significantly, with the proceeds of the building’s sale, the BCC will open a foundation with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, allowing it to continue accomplishing its mission.
The new foundation will be named ‘The YouthTime Foundation’ in order to recognize all the organization has accomplished in its past, and in anticipation of the impact it will have on Buffalo’s youth in the future.
The Buffalo Christian Center building was purchased in 1958 by dynamic leader Alan Forbes. The organization was originally named YouthTime. For many years, the BCC hosted important events and programming including a regular “Artist Series” with popular national performers, Saturday night youth gatherings, and even a daily radio broadcast called “Good News at Noon,” hosted by Alan Forbes.
More recently, the BCC has turned its focus to serving at-risk youth with programs such as job training with Mayor’s Summer Youth, “Night Out” with the Buffalo Bills, Teen Mothers of Preschoolers, and Merge (weekly youth nights).
Ellicott Development Company is planning a mix of uses for the 66,000 sq.ft. building. Ellicott Development CEO William Paladino told The Buffalo News that “at a minimum they would include offices and apartments.” He also said that the reuse plan would maintain the Forbes Theater and possibly the building’s pool.
The building is similar to the conversion project Ellicott Development completed in 2012 at 14 North Street (above). The circa-1899 First Baptist Church was converted to eleven apartments. Ellicott is also expected to do a similar conversion of the Our Lady of Lourdes church on Main Street near Best Street.
It will join a number of projects underway or planned in the Tupper Street corridor.
John Barry, Paul Kolkmeyer, and Chris Jacobs,working as Carriage House Square, purchased 33 and 41 W. Tupper Street and 347 Franklin Street for $700,000 from owner RLM Inc. in June. The three are renovating the nearby Birzon Building at 686 Main Street into a mix of commercial space and a dozen loft apartments.
Apartments and commercial space are planned for a six-story building owned by Mark Croce at 505 Pearl Street. Croce has a tenant lined up for the first floor and twenty-nine apartments will fill the 42,000 sq.ft. building’s upper floors.
A new bar and restaurant run and partly owned by Jon Karel will be opening in the Laughlin’s location in a week. Across the street, the four-story apartment building at 329 Franklin Street is said to be under contract by a local developer.
To the east, Uniland Development is planning to redevelop 505 Ellicott Street to create 36,000 sq.ft. of office space attractive to firms in the tech, creative or medical industries.
Last month, Uniland Development Co. purchased multiple Frey the Wheelman Inc. properties along E. Tupper and Ellicott Streets for $1.3 million. Uniland is expected to announce plans for those properties soon.