Happy Anniversary Granite Works!. It was just over 10 years ago (Sept 21, 2006 to be exact) that BRO announced the ribbon cutting for the highly anticipated opening of the Granite Works apartments on the 800 block of Main Street. This was, as Bernie Sanders would say…huuuuuuge. Not only did First Amherst Development Group save some of downtown’s most at risk historic buildings, turning them into highly desirable upscale living spaces, but this meticulous rehab project joins with First Amherst’s other groundbreaking project, the Lofts @ Elk Terminal, along with Ellicott Development’s 2004 rebirth of L.L.Berger’s into the Belesario, Rocco Termini’s 2005 conversion of Public School 13 into the Oak Street Lofts, and the 2005 renovation of the Sidway office building into upscale apartments, as among the first catalysts and progenitors of downtown Buffalo’s current revival.
And that got me thinking….ten years later, with so much progress and activity happening in the city’s core, it’s time to look back and pay tribute to those pioneer buildings and enterprises like the Granite Works, the Lofts @ Elk Terminal, the Belesario, Oak Street Lofts, The Sidway and many more that paved the way for what is happening today in the Queen City. Hard to believe, given the current pace of development, that on September 21, 2006, downtown Buffalo was still a ghost town – no five star hotels, no restaurant row, no Genessee Gateway, no cars on Main Street But the aforementioned building conversions ushered in a new era for our city, one that continues to move forward today at break neck speed.
So on this tenth anniversary of the opening of the Granite Works, it’s time to honor those pioneer properties and businesses that were ahead of the curve – that took a gamble on downtown… and won.
I’ve compiled, therefore, a list (in no particular order) of the 11 buildings and businesses to whom we owe a debt of thanks and appreciation for making Buffalo what it is today – more vibrant, more alive and getting better every day. The list is far from complete. I know there are many buildings and business which I have inadvertently left out. To those, please accept my apologies in advance. As a Torontonian without ready and regular access to downtown Buffalo, I am relying on the good readers of BRO to fill in the gaps of those buildings and businesses I’ve left out.
1. The Granite Works (2006)
2. The Lofts @ Elk Terminal (2007)
3. The Belasario (2004)
4. Oak Street Lofts (2004)
5. Sidway Building (2005)
6. Avant Condos (2009) – originally the Dulski Federal Building, the conversion from office building into luxury condos, offices and the Embassy Suites hotel, marked the debut of high rise upscale condos in downtown Buffalo
7. Washington Market (2008) – it was a watershed moment in 2008 when a food/grocery retailer set up shop in downtown Buffalo, when so few people were living near it. Now situated in thick of surrounding development, Washington Market is still going strong and IMO, deserves special recognition for being the first food store in a fledgling city center catering to those early downtown residents.
8. In similar light, kudos to “Get Dressed” (2006) for becoming the first men’s wear store to open on Main Street in decades. So big a deal was this, it earned a press release on the City of Buffalo website.
And while Get Dressed is no longer there, it deserves equal praise for being a true retail pioneer on Main Street, at a time when downtown was just waking up from a long and deep slumber. Indeed, its pioneering spirit still lives on at its nearby neighbor, Furnishings Gift Home & You, selling gifts, home accessories and personal accessories.
9. Edible Arrangements (2012) brought retail life back to the street level of the Brisbane Building…another retail pioneer that is still going strong
10. New Era Cap (2008). A major coup for the city to have a WNY based global company relocate to downtown, it ushered in new life to that part of Delaware Avenue…not only by building its headquarters on the Avenue, but by adding a retail outlet as well…bringing in shoppers, tourists and cap fans from around the world to downtown.
11. The Market Arcade. Though it dates back to 1892, the Market Arcade is seeing a new life with several new stores and boutiques gracing its elegant interior. And with AMC theaters coming aboard soon, the Market Arcade will be bringing first run movies back to Main Street, adding another element of vibrant urban life, day and night, to the downtown
So as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Granite Works official opening by looking back at our downtown trailblazers, the zeitgeist of downtown retail development marches forward. In the spirit of pioneerism, I can only imagine what the city will look like when we celebrate the Granite Works 20th anniversary.
Photos: The Partnership