Sometimes the most unexpected opportunities lie in wait for us when we are least expecting. And sometimes those opportunities are born of unexpected inconveniences. When Rachel Heckl, owner/developer of the Rosanna Elizabeth Visual & Performing Arts Center, heard that her project was in jeopardy, she needed to think quick on her feet. In order for the West Ferry Church project to move forward, to get a green light from Zoning Board, she needed to come up with a satellite parking lot to accommodate the future arts center and its tenants. So she reached out to The Plaza Group to lease a sprawling parking lot on West Ferry, near Grant Street. She soon realized that a neighboring building located at 345 West Ferry would also come in handy. So she struck up a deal, and The Annex was born.
Immediately Rachel began to sublet the spaces within The Annex, while leaving some room to accommodate overfill from her church project. In no time flat, the building fully occupied. Tenants at The Annex include Teach for America, Reddy Bikes, Buffalo Gamelan Club (will eventually move into the church), Remedy House, Blue Table Chocolates (production), Beautiful Cookies, and Hearts and Thoughts Insurance Agency. The Annex also boasts a sizable commissary kitchen that accommodates two full time bakers and chef Emily Pierce-Delaney who I will be covering in an upcoming BRO article.
For years this building sat empty. The last time I ever saw it occupied, there was a tanning salon inside. This section of West Ferry could be considered a mild disaster when it comes to the building, demolition and planning mistakes that have been made in the past. The Annex offers us a glimmer of hope that one day we might see a resurgence of this stretch of West Ferry. Who knows? Now that Rachel has planted a stake in the ground, others might also see the value? A stretch of buildings or gardens fronting the massive West Ferry parking lots could obscure them, while leaving plenty of parking for everyone to use. Maybe even a container complex for refugees to conduct retail could be a fun idea? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with The Annex and see what happens from there. This unexpected gift to the neighborhood couldn’t have come at a better time.