The Medical Campus has worked its magic again. This time the campus has drawn a couple of Toronto investors to Buffalo, who have purchased the entirety of Buffalo’s first modern day hospital building. Donald Cameron, President of Buffalo Real Estate Ventures, and Paul Smith, Senior VP, have pooled their resources and respective talents to acquire 14, 18, and 20 St. Louis Place (The Pearl Block of St. Louis Place) – three buildings within seemingly one structure.
The buildings, formerly owned by three different owners, were acquired over the course of 2012 and 2014. The middle building (18) was the team’s initial acquisition, and has been completely remodeled. The next building to be purchased (14 – to the left) is in the process of being converted to loft units. The third building (20) is the last to go, and will soon be upgraded to match the rest.
Altogether there are 30 apartments, ranging from loft units to singles. When Don and Paul first came across the historic building, the units were a far cry from the state that they are in today (or approaching). Each unit had been sullied with drop ceilings, horrific wallpaper, outdated fixtures… “tragic” is the word that Don uses to describe their former state. “Some work had been conducted by former owners,” said Don, who is an architect and a construction pro. “They were all in different states of condition and improvements. I’ve dealt with a lot of low-rise and high-rise residential and a lot of industrial – I’m accustomed to old buildings that need to get fixed the right way. We’re putting in new kitchens with solid stone counters, dual flush toilets, and fireplaces (which will heat the entire unit) where we can. We’ve removed the drop ceilings, converted old wood beams into built-in desks, sanded down old doors to preserve them, exposed and sealed brick walls, insulated walls, replaced the windows, and added washers and dryers to each apartment. All of the fixtures are made in the USA, except the wood floors, which are Canadian.”
I took a look at the state of some of the apartment units as they were in mid-transition, and was very happy to see the upgrades. Some of the former apartments must have been in rough shape, as I spotted a few signs of seriously outdated sore spots (which had not been fixed yet).
Paul told me that they are looking to attract more employees from the Medical Campus. Already they have doctors, nurses, and radiologists moving into the finished building. “It’s why we’re here,” Paul explained. “The Medical Campus (BMC) drew us to Buffalo. We love to come to Buffalo – it’s a great city. We come twice a week and it’s the highlight of our week. We’ve met a lot of great people, including a number of developers who have helped us to navigate the city. We weren’t sure how we would be welcomed – the people who we have met are excited about the work that we’re putting into the buildings. You can’t find places like this in Toronto – it’s why we love it here. We’re designing the apartment units around the brick, and preserving everything that we can, while updating them to our standards. Don has worked all over North America and in Europe – his work is top-notch. We want to attract the young professionals. We’re excited to see what’s happening in the Medical Campus neighborhood, and on Main Street where they are putting the cars back on the street.”
Talking to Don and Paul, it’s clear that they are not here to make a quick buck. Quite the opposite. They have fallen in love with Buffalo. They talk about it as if they have lived here for years, and they are quick to tout it as one of the great cities. “You can’t find this architecture in Toronto,” said Don. “Toronto is an incredible international city, but they knocked down the historic buildings – it’s all new. We look around Buffalo, and can’t believe what is here. At one point, Buffalo “died” quickly, and that’s the reason that so much historic architecture remains (even though we lost a lot early on). As Toronto grew, a lot of the historic buildings were demolished – at that point Buffalo was stagnant and the buildings have sat awaiting investment. Finally we’re seeing classic redevelopment in Buffalo.”
If you’re not familiar with St. Louis Place, then you might not recognize the historic hospital buildings that have sat quietly by, waiting for someone to take notice. Now the day has arrived, when this grouping of buildings will shine thanks to an outside interest that is looking at Buffalo as the place to be. “You’ve got BMC as the driver,” stated Paul. “That’s why we’re here. Buffalo is starting to become the typical American city, where people live downtown and work downtown. Restaurants are popping up left and right, buildings are being fixed up, neighborhoods are coming back, and everyone is excited to participate in the renaissance. People want to walk to work, and they want to head to a nearby restaurant to meet their friends. We’re creating desirable units, and the medical workers are snapping them up. Work on the third building is well underway, and we think that there might even be an opportunity for a company setting up shop in Buffalo to secure the entire footprint (15 varying single units) for its employees – this is not uncommon in other cities, and there is enough of an economic buzz in Buffalo for this to make sense. It’s something that we are considering. Buffalo is reaching a point where anything is possible.”
St. Louis Place is an extremely quaint street, and is surrounded by a great number of other recent success stories (other than the Medical Campus). It’s a short walk to Just Vino and Coco, Allen Street, Delaware Avenue and The Mansion, and the Metro Rail, which can take people from the UB South Campus to the waterfront.
Listening to Don and Paul speak about the Medical Campus, and how it has triggered their passion for Buffalo, it only makes me think that the University at Buffalo should be looking harder at reinvesting its resources into the city – look at what has happened so far. But that’s another story for another day.
14, 18, 20 St. Louis Place | www.loftsbuffalo.com | 844-484-RENT | info@LoftsBuffalo.com