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Big Deal: Schneider Renovating Shea’s Seneca

Schneider Development is heading south. The development company headed by architect Jake Schneider is planning 25 apartments in the historic Shea’s Seneca property at 2178 Seneca Street at Cazenovia Street.  The firm has been focused on the downtown area with reuse projects at 599 Delaware Avenue, Apartments @ the Hub on Swan Street, Historic Warehouse Lofts on Ellicott Street, AC Lofts on Elm Street, and it recently opened Turner Bros. Lofts on Niagara Street.

The largely-vacant historic Shea’s Seneca structure was originally built in 1929 by famed regional cinema purveyor Michael Shea, who built many iconic movies houses throughout the region, including Shea’s Buffalo in downtown, the Northpark Theatre in North Buffalo, and a handful of others that have been demolished over the years.


While the 2,500 seat Shea’s Seneca theatre was demolished in 1969, the remaining 48,000 square foot commercial structure contains original architectural character including its white terracotta façade, ticket vestibule, and ornate plaster castings adorning the 2 ½ – story barrel vaulted ceiling movie theater lobby– all of which will be restored as part of the $9 million redevelopment.


“It’s a beautiful and historically significant structure across the street from an Olmsted Park,” said Jake Schneider, President of Schneider Development. “The building and the neighborhood have great bones and potential.”


Upon completion, the project will feature 25 apartments, a 130-seat theatre and classroom space for local non-profit performance arts organization Second Generation Theatre Company, and banquet and special events space run by William and Molly Koessler.

The Koesslers own and operate a handful of other successful banquet and restaurant facilities throughout the City, including the Marquis de Lafayette located in the Lafayette Hotel downtown, Acqua, the Foundry Banquet & Suites on Elmwood, William K’s and the Hatch at the Erie Basin Marina, and Molly’s on Main Street which just opened this week in Fountain Plaza. The project will also have additional storefront space for neighborhood retail, which has yet to be programmed. “

We haven’t started marketing it yet, but will be looking to partner with a coffee shop, bakery, or other interactive neighborhood retail service providers that bring new amenities into the neighborhood,” said Schneider.

“We were looking for a permanent home where we can continue to build our brand and further expand our production capabilities,” said Kristin Bentley, Executive Director of Second Generation Theatre Company. In addition to their own productions, Second Generation Theatre Co. plans to bring in teaching artists to provide workshops for local professionals and to establish an educational theatre program for the community. “The building’s rich history as a prominent community entertainment venue is a nice tie in to our work and mission.”

According to Schneider, it’s not just the building that excites him, but the opportunity to take part in larger redevelopment initiatives for the Seneca Street commercial corridor. “We’re very excited about the neighborhood – it’s a well-established and proud community with great assets to build upon. It is our hope that this project will serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of the Seneca Street commercial corridor.”

Over the course of the past few months, Schneider has been meeting with elected officials and neighborhood stakeholders to identify ways to collaborate and drive forward larger redevelopment initiatives for the corridor “There are so many people passionately committed and working to bringing the neighborhood back,” he says. “The time has come for this neighborhood.”

“The advancements we’ve seen in the new Buffalo mean nothing if they don’t extend into the neighborhoods,” said Congressman Brian Higgins, who helped secure federal Historic Tax Credits for this redevelopment. “Schneider Development’s vision for Shea’s Seneca will be transformative for Seneca Street. This exciting investment in a historic South Buffalo landmark, doesn’t just change a building, it has the ability to change the landscape of this community.”

“Schneider Development’s plan for redeveloping Shea’s Seneca is exactly the type of investment the community has been anxious to see,” said South District Councilmember Christopher P. Scanlon. “The restoration and redevelopment of this magnificent, historic structure will help usher in the rebirth of Seneca Street.”

Construction is anticipated to start in Spring of 2017 and be completed in Spring-Summer 2018. Preservation Studios is assisting with the historic preservation tax credit work.

Get Connected: Schneider Development, 716.923-7000

Entry Image and lobby picture by Katie Schneider


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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