The future of The Central Terminal is looking brighter by the day. Not only is there a continued effort to clean it up and secure it from the elements, there is also a fresh outlook on the building these days from potential development interests due to the city’s ability to rebound. One particular developer, Harry Stinson of Stinson Developments, hails from Toronto. Stinson started off in the restaurant world before entering into the brokerage world, which is what finally led him into development. In the mid 80s, he was know as the “Condo King”. Stinson was also the developer that tackled the Candy Factory in Toronto – a project that led to the revitalization of an entire neighborhood surrounding the project.
In Buffalo, Steve Fitzmaurice is Stinson’s right hand man. After leaving the One Seneca Tower building, Fitzmaurice was contacted by Stinson to take a look at The Central Terminal and the adjoining parcels of land. The city owns the 16 acre parcel at 59 Memorial Drive. Although they didn’t publish an RFP for the property, Stinson and Fitzmaurice felt that it was an integral piece of the development puzzle – one would not work without the other. Thus, The City drafted and approved a designated developer agreement to run parallel with the one issued by Central Terminal Restoration Corporation for The Terminal.
Fitzmaurice was aware of Stinson’s development history, and was also keen on the fact that his projects took into concern the historic nature of the sites – typically in Toronto, the highest and best use for a site is a teardown.
At this point in time, the development team is halfway through The City’s RFP process and has created a conceptual master plan for what it is calling Terminal City. Onboard with the concept is Carmina Wood Morris (architects), Phillips Lytle (law firm), and CohnReznick (accounting firm). “What I like about Harry is that he sees things that others don’t see,” Fitzmaurice told me. “He’s looking at this art deco marvel likes it’s a combination of Larkinville and The Hotel @ The Lafayette. It’s going to take between $75 and $100 million to get this project done, and it’s going to take somebody that has a history of working with large historic projects. We’re working with Bolton-St. Johns on the strategy for the complex, and so far we have been well received by the community, The City, and the politicians who have met with us. Everyone loves the project.”
The Central Terminal project encompasses 523,000 square feet of usable space. The development team is looking at a Town Square Model, which essentially would take the 16 acre parcel and turn it into a multi-use residential playground, with 57 residential units in the top half of the terminal’s tower, and 60,000 square feet of commercial space below. The main concourse would be fully restored and reactivated as a 24/7 space that would service residents and the public. While all of the amenities have not been fleshed out yet, there would be event space, restaurant opportunities (and a ticket counter bar), and room for plenty of additional amenities. All of the terminal’s ground floor and mezzanine spaces would be utilized to create a distinct and remarkable destination that would ultimately pay tribute to the history of the building.
The former baggage building would be transitioned into a modern and completely unique freestanding hotel experience (150 rooms would occupy over 100,000 square feet). There is room for a 432 parking garage conversion as well, although there are some other ideas floating around depending on what best suits the rest of the development. There is also plenty of surface parking to handle whatever the traffic demand might be down the road to accommodate visitors.
At one point, it was thought that some of the outlying terminal buildings might be too far gone to salvage, but after looking at their historic value and their balance with other buildings, they are now being considered for ideas that include apartments and a farmers market at the Railway Express Building (see below). Thanks to historic tax credits, buildings that might otherwise be discarded are now being rolled into the project. “We’re thinking that we can draw people who would want to rent these apartments, with the option to purchase them in five years. These would be very unique living opportunities – the residents would have access to all of the amenities at the complex. We’re even talking about building town homes around the buildings that would help to fund the development of the terminal.”
Along with all of the hotel and residential opportunities comes the transportation opportunities. Terminal City has the ability to be considered The Gateway into The City. If Amtrak were to jump onboard with this development, the Belt Line would be one step closer to reality. The terminal could become a transportation hub, with Light Rail leading into the city. There’s also a rail right-of-way to the airport, as well as bus opportunities. Think of it – the Central Terminal would finally be utilized in the scope and capacity that it was always intended, and could be an awesome economic driver for the entire East Side.
Stinson is still in the stage of fitting all of the pieces of the puzzle together, but so far he likes what he sees. On the back end, tax credit opportunities are being explored (brownfield, new market and historic – the complex is on the National Historic Register), a Consolidated Funding Application has been applied for that would tap the Buffalo Billion for soft costs, and there’s even talk about applying for a TIGER grant for transportation leverage.
Fitzmaurice attributes all of this action to the insightful nature of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation’s new board. “It’s a new board, with a new vision for the building,” he told me. “We believe that we are capable of pulling off this vision.”
Central Terminal image: Wikipedia