Downtown development continues to roll. Fifty-four downtown area projects were finished, announced, or underway in 2015. That is three more than the 2014 recap. The Buffalo skyline had three significant additions this year: HARBORCENTER, Conventus and 250 Delaware. Three more are under construction: UB Medical School, John Oishei Children’s Hospital, and Roswell Park’s Clinical Research Center.
Just 44 units were brought online downtown, one of the lowest numbers in recent years. Include the Larkin District, and that number jumps by 141 units (41 units at Seneca Street Lofts and 100 at Hydraulic Lofts). The largest project, technically in Allentown, was Strathman Manor at 481 Franklin Street with twelve apartments. Also in Allentown, Ellicott Development added nine apartments to the 10 Symphony Circle complex. 112 Genesee, 173 Elm, and 172-76 Franklin each had five apartments. Four apartments were added to the second floor of 888 Main Street, three apartments were completed at 537 Main Street, and two were opened in 483 Main Street.
The development pipeline is significant with 350 units now under construction and 491 units announced last year. The largest project underway is Evergreen Health’s conversion of 117-145 Cherry Street into a fifty unit apartment building.
Two large projects are changing the face of lower Niagara Street. Norstar Development is constructing eight buildings with a total of 48 units at the north end of the Shoreline Apartments site. Nearly across the street, Schneider Development is wrapping up conversion of 295-305 Niagara into Turner Bros. Lofts with 40 apartments and commercial space.
Ciminelli Real Estate has 45 units underway in The Sinclair, the former Educational Opportunity Center at Washington and E. Mohawk streets. Further south, two projects in the Joseph Ellicott Preservation District are converting dated office space into apartments. Thirty-six units are going into the Stanton Building at 251 Main Street and 26 units are being built-out on the upper floors of the White Building at 298 Main.
Near the Medical Campus, Sinatra & Company is creating 31 apartments and a small amount of commercial space in the historic Phoenix Brewery at Washington and Virginia streets. Greenleaf & Co. is turning the Bosche Building at 918 Main Street and its neighbor at 916 Main into 23 apartments.
The first residential development along Ohio Street broke ground this year. Ellicott Development is constructing a five-story, 21-unit residential building at 399 Ohio that will include ground floor restaurant space. It is the first of several buildings the developer plans for a site along the Buffalo River. Ellicott Development is also constructing nine townhouses in its Waterfront Place development along Ojibwa Circle.
In the Theater District, a development team is creating 12 apartments in the Birzon Building at 686 Main Street. The building’s lower two levels will contain commercial space. At S. Elmwood and Edward Streets, Wayne Bacon is creating a half dozen apartments in the former Immaculate Conception Church rectory.
At 5-7 Genesee Street overlooking Roosevelt Square, a development partnership headed by architect Steve Carmina is converting two non-descript buildings into three apartments and space for a ground floor restaurant.
Developers announced plans for 491 additional units this year. Krog Corp. is planning up to 150 units in the Trico complex at the south end of the Medical Campus. Also targeting the Medical Campus is a proposal for 76 ‘micro’ units in Lofts @ 400 by Rocco Termini at Oak and E. Tupper streets.
At the northern end of the Medical Campus, Ellicott Development announced plans to put 12 apartments in the Our Lady of Lourdes church on Main Street. Nearby, pioneering downtown residential developer First Amherst Development proposed 38 apartments in a four-story building at 19 North Street.
Ellicott Development has had a busy year. The company’s mixed-use project at 500 Pearl Street includes 28 apartments on two levels.
On North Street in Allentown, Uniland Development switched gears on redeveloping the Nazareth Nursing Home property at 291 North Street and is negotiating to sell the property to Westmont Living for a 99-unit senior living facility. In Waterfront Village, Ciminelli Real Estate is proposing a 30-unit condominium and townhouse project for a 2.4 acre site at 240-60 Lakefront Boulevard.
First Amherst Development Group is also returning to its roots by proposing to add 23 units to the Lofts @ Elk Terminal complex.
McGuire Development Company announced plans for a new residential building at its Compass East property along Michigan Avenue but has not released a design. Nearby, a development group headed by Steve Carmina is proposing 12 apartments plus cultural and commercial space at 163-67 Broadway.
Lisa Martineck is planning three apartments on the second floor of 220 Franklin Street next to the Curtiss Hotel. Martineck’s Capello Salon & Day Spa will move into the building’s ground floor.
Also on the residential front, Schneider Development has started sales at the Historic Warehouse Lofts condominium conversion on Ellicott Street. Over half of the 30 units are sold or under contract.
With the nearly-empty One Seneca tower literally looming over downtown, developers are justifiably gun shy about building new office space downtown without a substantial anchor tenant. Two projects completed this year had much of their space pre-leased to allow construction to proceed. Uniland Development’s 250 Delaware’s office space was leased before opening. It is anchored by Delaware North, Key Bank, and the Department of Homeland Security.
Ciminelli Real Estate opened Conventus, a 350,000 sq.ft. building at Main and High streets anchored by Kaleida Health, UBMD, Athenex, and the Buffalo Medical Innovation and Commercialization Hub.
Buffalo Dialysis has signed a lease with Uniland Development to anchor its 520 Ellicott Street project. Construction on the 23,000 sq.ft. building will start this spring. Also on the medical front, Plaza Group is renovating the former Alpha Graphics building at 520 Delaware for Womens Health PC.
Ellicott Development is planning commercial space in two of its upcoming projects. The seventh floor of 500 Pearl Street will encompass 28,000 sq.ft. of office space. At the Our Lady of Lourdes site at the edge of the Medical Campus, the company is proposing an office building of up to 160,000 sq.ft. The Krog Corp. will also be marketing a large chunk of the Trico complex to medical campus users.
Sticking to medical offices, Evergreen Health Services broke ground on a five-story addition to the Roanoke Building at 206 S. Elmwood Avenue.
In a promising sign, Architect Michael Anderson of Abstract Architecture purchased 313 Broadway at the corner of Cedar Street and will relocate to the near East Side site.
Hotels remain hot. The big opening of the year was the Marriott at HARBORCENTER. The 205-room hotel is the final component of the mixed-use complex constructed on the Webster Block at the foot of Main Street.
Two hotels are under construction. Mark Croce is converting a former office building at 204 Franklin into the Curtiss Hotel. The 68-room boutique property will open in mid-2016 and will include some special features such as an outdoor hot springs, a revolving bar in the ground floor restaurant, and rooftop lounge.
Also under construction is the Westin hotel at 250 Delaware. The 118-room property will occupy the first five floors of the complex and will be run by Delaware North.
The hotel boom appears to be rolling on. 500 Pearl Street will be anchored by a 109-room hotel and the Trico complex is expected to have a 138-room hotel component. A hotel in the AM&As Department Store complex is still alive but construction has not started.
Work to return cars to the 500 block of Main Street wrapped up at the end of the year. The next phase of the project covering the foot of Main Street was pushed along by a federal government funding award. The City is also planning streetscape work along Franklin Street, infrastructure work along Pearl to return it to two-way traffic, and the long-delayed streetscape project pegged for Genesee Street between Washington and Elm streets.
2015 was the year for restaurant and brewery/distillery openings downtown. A few of the most significant ones were along Ellicott Street including Deep South Taco at 291 Ellicott, Big Ditch Brewery at E. Huron and Ellicott, Toutant at 437 Ellicott, and Niagara Distilling at 459 Ellicott.
Plans for a $40 million expansion at Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino were also unveiled this year. The two-story addition will add 360 additional slot machines and ten additional table games, expanded restaurants, and retail space.
Thanks to all of the developers and investors both large and small that keep us busy at Buffalo Rising year round. Apologies to anyone overlooked in this recap.