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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

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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  • cs

    This is great news on a Monday morning!

  • Brianne Hofert Hufnagel

    YES! Thanks for sharing this info.

  • UrbanLove

    Thank GOD we have not torn everything down in Buffalo.
    This is a great example of why we should mothball buildings, which might not have a use TODAY….but could tomorrow.

    • wcperspective

      Exactly. This promises to return the property as an anchor to that commercial strip and neighborhood.

      • UrbanLove

        We lose this opportunity every time Paladino and others tear down buildings.
        It’s great to see people excited about a rebirth, such as this, but where is the anger when opportunities are lost because of demolition?

        • LongGoneeee

          There is a difference between tearing a building down and building a parking lot and tearing a building down and building a $75 million complex.
          But keep your pitchfork sharp….

        • Mytwocents

          You have to pick your battles. Obviously beautiful old buildings such as this one should be kept. But you can’t keep every old building just because it’s old. There needs to be a balance. You don’t “lose this opportunity every time Paladino and others tear down buildings.” THIS opportunity doesn’t come with every old building. Some old buildings SHOULD/need to be torn down. Old buildings with significance like this one should stand for decades to come. Buildings I believe you are alluding to such as the Bachelor and the old building at the corner of Delaware and Chippewa didn’t offer anything even close to Shea’s Seneca.

          • Randy503

            I can’t believe you talk about “balance.” That’s 100% ridiculous! About two-thirds of all buildings pre-1960 in the downtown are now gone. So if you really do care about balance, you would say that the “balance” is that the remaining buildings should not be torn down. It isn’t balanced to have two-thirds gone. And it sure isn’t balanced to say that, well, two thirds are gone, but we need to balance the remainder. With that logic, when we are left with just two buildings left from the pre 60s era, you will say we must “balance” tearing down one with preserving the other. then we have just one building left.

            Don’t talk to me about balance when you have already won the lion’s share and argue for still more.

          • Mytwocents

            Balance does not equate to a 50/50 split in old vs. new. In order to develop as a city, new buildings are a must. Look to other developed cities’ metro areas, what do you see? Shiny new buildings! There is no sense in keeping certain buildings just for the sake of it. I’m all for keeping around beautiful old buildings, I really am, I have a great deal of appreciation for them. This is a beautiful old building, but I can’t say the same for many of the buildings torn down recently. You say two thirds of buildings built pre-1960 are gone? One, I highly doubt that is accurate. Two, good, that means people are willing to invest and advance the city forward. Fifty years from now you’ll say Two thirds of the buildings built before 2000 are now gone. And fifty years from now I’d say, good. We as a race are urbanizing, which requires bigger buildings, small two and three stories aren’t going to cut it anymore. We need to be building up, not out. And back to your jab at my use of balance, the balance that needs to be used here is determining which properties really are worth keeping and which ones we could go without. I for one think the city is doing a decent job at making those calls.

          • eagercolin

            “You say two thirds of buildings built pre-1960 are gone? One, I highly doubt that is accurate. Two, good, that means people are willing to invest and advance the city forward. ”

            Demolishing buildings to create parking lots, “shovel-ready” lots, and the like doesn’t “advance the city forward.”

          • Mytwocents

            That may have been the outcome for past projects, which I can’t agree with either. But it doesn’t seem to be how most demos are turning out nowadays.

          • eagercolin

            I’ll just go ahead and quote you again: “You say two thirds of buildings built pre-1960 are gone? One, I highly doubt that is accurate. Two, good, that means people are willing to invest and advance the city forward.”

            That’s you saying that it was good that so much was demolished in the past.

          • Mytwocents

            People taking chances on development is a good thing. Not following through and finishing the job is not. I’m no historian and I’m not exactly long in the tooth, but I’d be willing to bet that a good amount of the empty lots had other things planned for them that fell through for one reason or another. Today we’re actually seeing those renderings being turned into buildings. Let’s use some common sense here Colin, obviously I’m not in favor of knocking down historical buildings to be replaced with a vacant lot.

          • Randy503

            And yet that’s exactly what happened. So your theory that tearing down buildings is always about progress is a false one. Really, it’s not difficult to admit that! It’s an obvious truth.

            But yes, many people wanted to demolish just because the building was vacant and old. It made Buffalo “look bad.” Even today, people think old buildings are just old, and that downtown should be all shiny new buildings.

            I’m not against new builds. And yes, any empty spaces should be filled in with new builds. But when a third of downtown is still empty surface parking lots, I see no reason to tear down any buildings unless and until those empty lots are filled. Surely you can agree on that at least.

          • OldFirstWard

            “But yes, many people wanted to demolish just because the building was vacant and old. It made Buffalo “look bad.” Even today, people think old buildings are just old, and that downtown should be all shiny new buildings.”

            That is exactly why many buildings were demolished. Not because of the need for surface lots. Though that became a logical use once the building was cleared. Buffalo was wall to wall buildings mainly brick warehouses and 3 to 5 story structures. When the downtown area began its decline, owners without tenants locked the door, posted a for-rent sign and walked away.

            Many of these buildings were at a point in their lifespan where renovations were badly needed. The mechanical systems were antiquated and inefficient. Electrical and plumbing needed upgrades just to comply with newer building codes that did not exist in the late 19th century. Flat roofs were failing, lack of proper gutter and downspout drainage was causing tremendous water infiltration damage. Windows needed replacing with modern energy efficient units. Brick exterior was in need of repointing from exposure to the harsh winters and rain, cornices were failing, and a large amount of interior renovation was needed to even attract any reputable businesses. Many became flop houses for the poor. The money was not available for a declining city center. Demolition became the only option for a city without any investment from a population that was flocking to the suburbs in droves.

          • Randy503

            Steele has put together a map, and yes, you can easily see it — two-thirds are gone. The whole stretch that was before Main Place Mall is gone, all the buildings along N and S Division street are gone, all the buildings around the Seneca Tower, the ball park and the whole of Canalside are gone. Most of these were torn down between 1960 and 2000, the very period that downtown and the city has a whole was declining. So your statement that “that means people are willing to invest and advance the city forward” is not only 100% wrong but facetious at best.

            What buildings “are really worth keeping?” People wanted to destroy Shea’s in the 1970s because it wasn’t worth keeping, and progress demanded more surface parking lots. People wanted to destroy the buildings along Genesee street, which are now filled. On the flip side, all the buildings that were in Canalside could have been used as lofts, artists’ space, and certainly were worth keeping. We don’t know what is “worth keeping” sometimes until it is gone forever.

            So you would be happy to have nearly all our historic buildings gone soon, because they are “too low” or too old or something? That would utterly destroy the concept of what Buffalo is. IF it’s just a glut of modern buildings, it will be no different from Houston, or any other modern city. It will have lost it’s identity, something, unless you haven’t noticed, is actually bankable.

            Buffalo has a real history and it’s one that no other city has. Other cities, such as Charleston, Savannah, Richmond, Paris, London and such have historic cores that are virtually untouched. People want it that way. The cities have grown — we have no lack of land upon which to build out.

            But Im glad I was able to expose your “balance” argument for what it really is — your goal is to get rid of it all. At lest own up to it.

          • Wise Profit

            “Charleston, Savannah, Richmond, Paris, London ”
            So you compare one of the poorest cities in the nation to two massive thousand year old European style metros and three of the most affluent southern cities in the country?
            Those cities have one very important thing that Buffalo does not have. Money. Lots and lots of money.

          • Randy503

            Sure, for several reasons. Buffalo has lots of money too. Remember that at one time there were more millionaires per capita in Buffalo than any other city in north america. There was no shortage of money in Buffalo.

            Charleston and Savannah each went through tough patches, but now are thriving precisely because they did not tear down all their old and abandoned buildings. They have a vibrant tourist industry, in addition to others.

            And yes, I compare against Paris and London because they pretty much have kept their historic cores in tact, which proves that historic preservation is does not hold a city back. Toronto is an even better example, as they didn’t go through a whole cycle of abandon and tear down.

            The poorest cities are precisely those that did exactly what you claim should be done — Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Syracuse, Detroit, Troy, and many others hallowed out their downtown and destroyed more than half.

            And there are solid reasons for this. If you read Jane Jacob’s Death and Life of Great American Cities, you will understand this economic system. When we have old buildings, they have cheap rent. Cheap rent is exactly what cities need to revitilize their economies with entrerpreneurs and non profits.

            For examples, Miami had an entire district of abandonend warehouses in the 80s. They decided to just turn them over to non profit associations, and now that is one of the most vibrant parts of town.

            Had we kept all those old early 19th century buildings near Canalside, we would have space for artists lofts, new risky businesses and cheap living space. Those buildings would be far better tourism attractions than a Bass pro or even what we have now, mostly empty grass.

            Sorry, but the record is pretty darn clear — the cities that treated their historic core with respect do better in the long run than those that don’t.

          • Mytwocents

            1. Let’s see this map, I’d like to take a gander. 2. Your 2nd paragraph references properties that people wanted torn down, that were in fact kept as well as one that was torn down and developed into a very nice multi use building that has added to our city. This paragraph added nothing to your argument, even detracted from it other than the final sentence. 3. You’re twisting my words again in your third paragraph, if the buildings are not true beauts and cannot be reworked into something useful, yes I am fine with seeing them go. I did not say that I “would be happy to have nearly all our historic buildings gone soon”. Maybe there was an overstatement when I said I’d be fine with losing 2/3 of buildings. But let’s face it, a lot of these old buildings are cool and have potential, but not ALL of them are/do. 4. You got my goal perfectly, I want to see it all knocked down, you have a real sixth sense about these things, I’m a regular Joker, burn it all down. PAALEEEAASSSEEE. It’s everything in the extreme with you obstructionists.

          • Randy503

            ” I did not say that I “would be happy to have nearly all our historic buildings gone soon”. Maybe there was an overstatement when I said I’d be fine with losing 2/3 of buildings. But let’s face it, a lot of these old buildings are cool and have potential, but not ALL of them are/do.”

            Name one building that isn’t cool that has been rehabbed and turned into housing, a hotel, or a business. Even the Trico building is being turned into space. IF an “not cool” building like that has potential, I would like examples of buildings in your view have zero potential and should be torn down.

          • Mytwocents

            ANNNDDD we’ve come full circle, the Bachelor, and the building that the Delaware North building replaced.

          • Randy503

            Exactly. It could have been rehabbed into cool apartments, and been kept as part of our architectural history. But no — Paladino had to tear it down, even though he could have incorporated the building, as he did with the Christian Science building.
            As for the Delaware North building, again the same. Your argument is that we can tear any building down so long as something new and shiny is put up. Certainly the Delaware Building has plenty of coolness, even on your scale — it had columns and terra cotta. There are plenty of empty lots right around that they could have built on.
            So yes, I agree — we can tear down everything and put something new up. That is always the possibility, and that is exactly the notion that I am fighting.

          • Mytwocents

            Randy, you’re not listening at all. My argument is not that we can tear down any building so long as something new and shiny is put up. It’s not, so stop saying it is. Those two buildings were useless and an eyesore, even fixed up. I’m not sure the Bachelor would win in a beauty contest against the Seneca One Tower and I’ve heard from credible sources that the inside was un-salvageable. it sounds like you literally don’t ever want a building knocked down again, is that what you want?

          • Randy503

            “Those two buildings were useless and an eyesore, even fixed up.”

            How would you know if they were useless and eyesore UNTIL They are fixed up? Nearly every single building in buffalo that has been beautifully restored has been considered useless and an eyesore by the tear down crowd. People said that the Mansion on Delaware was “too far gone.” The Trico building is useless and an eyesore. Even Shea’s came very close to the wrecking ball because it was useless and an eyesore, back in the 70s. Every building that lined Main Street where the Main Place Mall is was considered useless and eyesore back in the 70s, and yet they were not different from the buildings being rehabbed around Roosevelt Square.

            It’s always easy to say an old building is useless and an eyesore. All the buildings on Niagara Street certainly fit that definition — until someone decided to restore them. The Delaware building is no different from the building across the street where Spot Coffee is now.

            AS for the Bachelor, there were people living in it up until eviction a few months ago, so there is no way it was un-salvageable. If it were, it wouldn’t have been inhabitable.

            And it ironic that you should say that the Delaware building was an eyesore when they copied the terra cotta facade to be an exact match. How is it that was a eyesore then, but a fine building today?

            Look, again, you guys have won. You have eliminated the majority of buildings in Buffalo. I’m just saying that for balance, we keep what we have left. Is that really such a bad bargain when you got most of what you wanted?

          • Mytwocents

            “How would you know if they were useless and eyesore UNTIL They are fixed up?” Are you familiar with the real estate business? They don’t go to a place, fix it up, and then determine whether or not it is feasible for re-use or renovation. Those determinations are made beforehand, based on current conditions and planned uses.

  • Mike Shriver

    Great news for this neighborhood. I’m excited to see what happens in this area over the next couple years, tons of potential

  • LongGoneeee

    Fantastic news! Seneca St. has a ways to go but there are some really good assets to work with.

  • Michael DiPasquale

    Great to hear.

  • Jim

    Was this the old Skyroom? Think I saw the Misifts there (or maybe Danzig?) in the early 90s…..

    • eagercolin

      Yes. And before that, the Salty Dog.

      • armyof100clowns

        Yup – think I saw Metallica there back in my salad days.

    • armyof100clowns

      It was Danzig . . . October 24th 1990. Great show and excellent venue.

      Is it pathetic I still have a flyer from that show?

      . . . saw a lot of great shows there.

      • Jim

        My goodness snapcase and ZT didnt Slapshot play with them there as well?..Holy cow, sounds like you and I were at many of the same shows (River Rock, Elks Lodge, Armory, etc) the good old days, right?

        • armyof100clowns

          There was a Slapshot, Snapcase, ZT, Judge show at the Scrapyard. A bunch of holdovers from BASH showed up to cause trouble, but promptly piped down when they realized they’re opinions were not shared or appreciated.

          The crazy thing to consider is the show where a little upstart prog-metal band from LA called Tool opened for a Snapcase and Judge show at the Scrapyard. They handed out their demo tape (I snagged two – one remains unopened), t-shirts (I gave my mine to one of my students in the late 90s), and stickers.

          The first Slapshot show I saw was at one of those colossal all day Saturday events that included Biohazard, Integrity, and, I think, Sick of it All. It was somewhere in South Buffalo – I can’t remember which venue.

          Good ol’ days indeed . . . young, dumb, and full of piss and vinegar.

          I keep my eye open all the time for that crazy scientist and his DeLorean . . .

  • Colin

    This is really amazing. I grew up in South Buffalo and had no idea that’s what this building was or that it looked like that inside. Hopefully a project this big can spark more reinvestment on Seneca.

    • Matt Marcinkiewicz

      Same here (although I grew up in West Seneca rather than SB…but my mother’s side of the family has SB roots and I’ve passed by this building many a time)

  • Dan

    Love this building. My aunt used to take me shopping there when it was a D&K. Even as a young child I thought it was a very fancy place to buy socks and coloring books. Hope it works out.

  • jim1234664

    Glad to see this right after I bought a house in south buffalo.

    Anyone who’s priced out of EV / west side and north buffalo take a look.

    Intact neighborhoods

    Very nice housing stock, bonus: most have driveways and garages.

    Minutes from the 190.

    Close to wegmans and big box shopping in West Seneca.

    Olmsted park right in the middle of it all.

    Prices have not jumped and are still affordable.

    This will be the next hot area. The housing stock and amenities are much nicer than any of the other parts of the city that have yet to see a large price increase.

    • Josh Robinson

      I’ve been considering South Buffalo for many of the same reasons. Proximity to the park, bike lanes on many major routes, and a beautiful tree-lined parkway in McKinley where homes sell for a fraction of what they do on Richmond. And much lower taxes than the first-ring burbs!

      I’ve looked on the West Side too, but the pricing inflation there has driven up the prices and you end up paying an awful lot for homes that have been essentially gutted over the years.

  • Michael Jarosz

    And just a block away is a terrific Sullivanesque branch bank that somebody should restore!

  • foreverbflo

    This is HUGE!!!
    It is like Schneider is buying AOL stock at the IPO for $3 way back when!!
    Just what that commercial strip needed. Good for him. Excellent. Neighborhood still has it’s bones, olmsted park, the creek, churches, other redeveloped gigs, bars, stores, and not too many vacant businesses. And great homes to! Very strategic move for Schneider. And very Timely.
    I remember going there when it was the Sky Room bar, dance, restaurant…. in early 90s.
    Wow – what great news that Jake is moving east and taking the lead.
    Why not?
    Great news!!!

  • aojwny

    Great news!!

  • OldFirstWard

    Schneider’s development company for this project, Sheas Seneca LLC purchased the building for $540,000 on August 25 from Dorothy Dweck, a real bargain by today’s standards. Too bad that some funding cannot be found to rebuild the lost theatre and marquee. It would be a huge boost for the entertainment and business corridor as a major anchor for Seneca St.

    There are some really nice buildings and housing on Seneca St. between Southside and Cazenovia St. in the city. Many of these doubles are unnoticed, with generous setbacks and hiding behind vinyl siding and poor renovations. In fact, of the main streets south of the city, South Park, Abbott, and Clinton St., Seneca street has the best stock The problem is that there is a lot of low income trashy renters that have flooded the area. It will take a lot of new investment and gentrification to root out.

    Some signs of that new investment have began to appear on Seneca St. this year as further proof that the real estate market in this area is starting to come alive once again:

    On March 10, the closed and former St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church was sold to Grace Guest House Inc. for $343,000 after selling for $135,000 two years earlier in 2014.
    The apartment building at the corner of Mineral Springs Rd. listed as 1942 Seneca St. was sold by Sundance Properties LLC to TNT Dynamite Properties LLC for $515,000 on February 5.

    • LancasterPat

      Great post. Yes, there’s lots of trash that needs to be moved off Seneca St.

      • eagercolin

        You just compared poor people to garbage. You’re evil.

        • LancasterPat


          • eagercolin

            Yes. You compared poor people to garbage. You sat down and thought about it and came to that conclusion and decided it was one you should share with the world.

          • LancasterPat

            Yeah, they suck.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    I will never see this building the same way again

  • Janet

    Sad to see the “warehouse” food store having to leave the neighborhood..been there 35yrs…I moved away but still went there to pick up different food items for cheap for all the kids parties! Hope they can find another place nearby for the people in the neighborhood need that kind of discount in the area!

  • Kath SB

    Thankful for this renovation.