Downtown development this past year was more about completions than announcements. There were 37 projects either announced, completed, or underway in the downtown area in 2016. That compares to 54 in 2015 and 52 in 2014.
pdf map here
The downtown residential market took the spotlight last year. Eleven projects with 301 units were completed stretching from the Buffalo River on the south to the Medical Campus on the north. The largest project was Evergreen Lofts on Cherry Street with 56 apartments. Ciminelli Real Estate welcomed its first residents at the 45-unit The Sinclair located at 465 Washington Street and Schneider Development completed Turner Bros. Lofts with 40 units on Niagara Street.
At the southern end of downtown, a rare new-build residential project with 21 apartments and commercial space was completed at 399 Ohio Street along the Buffalo River. Not far away, First Amherst Development finished 25 additional units at Lofts @ Elk Terminal, the pioneering downtown residential project that paved the way for other developers back in 2002.
A trio of projects with residential components were completed along Main Street. Priam Enterprises’ The Glenny opened at 251 Main Street with 36 units. A development team consisting of Priam Enterprises, Avalon Development and John Barry wrapped up work at the J.R. Barrington Building at 686 Main Street. The Theater District building, formerly known as the Birzon Building, has 12 units. Near Allen Street, Greenleaf & Company finished up 23 units in Bosche Lofts at 916 Main Street.
Sinatra & Company brought the first market-rate residential units to the Medical Campus. Phoenix Brewery Lofts located at the corner of Virginia and Washington streets has 31 apartments. Lisa Martineck moved her Capello Salon to 220 Franklin Street. The redevelopment of a former nightclub added three apartments to the downtown inventory.
One new for-sale development was completed this year. Nine townhouses were added to the Waterfront Place project along Ojibwa Circle. Sales have closed on five of the units ranging from $636,000 to $850,000.
Not a project per se, but Schneider Development completed the conversion of the rental units at Historic Warehouse Lofts at 210 Ellicott Street to condominiums. In a promising sign, all of the units were sold in about 18 months.
Seven projects are currently underway with 226 units. Downtown’s largest ground-up, market-rate apartment building is under construction along Ohio Street. Savarino Companies and Frontier Group of Companies’ Buffalo River Landing will contain 78 apartments when it is finished this year.
While there weren’t any new hotel developments announced last year, one was completed, two are under construction, and one is being redeveloped. The 118-key Westin Hotel opened in September in Uniland Development’s mixed-use development at 250 Delaware.
In what will be the largest hotel completed downtown since the Hyatt opened in 1984, Landco H&L is converting the former AM&As Department Store into a 300-room Wyndham Hotel. Mark Croce is finishing conversion of a former office building at 204 Franklin Street into the Curtiss Hotel. The 68-room high-end boutique hotel is expected to open by April.
Benderson Development is gutting the former Holiday Inn at 620 Delaware Avenue. Its 167 rooms will be reconfigured to contain 105 rooms when it reopens as a Residence Inn by Marriott.
With One Seneca Tower vacant but expected to have a large office component when redeveloped, developers have wisely stayed away from constructing new office space. That doesn’t mean construction of new space has halted, particularly when an anchor tenant has been lined up.
One small office project was completed last year and two are underway. The Plaza Group renovated a one-story building at 520 Delaware Avenue for General Physician PC Women’s Healthcare. Evergreen Health is continuing work on a five-story addition to its headquarters at the Roanoke Building at S. Elmwood and W. Chippewa Street. Uniland Development is putting the finishing touches on a three-story building at the southwest corner of Ellicott and W. Tupper streets.
Uniland Development released more intensive plans for 505 Ellicott Street. Instead of redevelopment of an existing warehouse on the site for office use, the developer has proposed a four-story office building instead.
In November, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc. purchased 980 Ellicott Street from Osmose Holdings, Inc. for $3.75 million. The 4.4-acre site is located on the northern end of the Medical Campus and the complex will be renovated for use as a second Innovation Center with office and laboratory space.
Two of the largest projects announced last year were by Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation. Following up its successful lease-up of the Conventus building, plans were released for an 11-story building across the street at 33 High Street. It will be marketed to medical and technology tenants.
Ciminelli Real Estate also announced big plans for a surface parking lot at 201 Ellicott Street. The mixed-use complex will have 44,000 sq.ft. of retail space anchored by an Orchard Fresh grocery store, 110,000 sq.ft. of office space with a tenant already lined up for half of it, 200 residential units, 800 parking spaces, and a large public plaza and terrace.
Two major development projects that have been in the works for a while are nearing completion on the Medical Campus. The John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital and the UB Medical School will open next year along High Street. Also on the Medical Campus, Roswell Park’s new Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center opened in May at Michigan Avenue and Carlton Street.
A two-story addition is underway at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. The 28,500 square feet of space will expand gambling, dining and entertainment options at the facility.
The Year Ahead
2017 promises to be an interesting year for downtown. Douglas Development is expected to detail its long-range vision for One Seneca Tower while bringing restaurants and possibly a grocery store to the vacant complex’s base.
Despite losing the Emerson School as a tenant, Krog Corp. is expected to purchase and proceed with reuse of the Trico Complex. The developer recently put the first phase of construction work out to bid.
The residential market is in transition. Downtown is running out of historic buildings to convert and developers are turning to Niagara Street, Black Rock, the Larkin District, South Buffalo and elsewhere for projects. In a promising sign, new residential construction is happening. Ciminelli Real Estate has proposed the largest new residential development in at least two decades at 201 Ellicott Street and is also planning a new project in Waterfront Village. Two new residential buildings have sprung up along Ohio Street, there are new infill buildings proposed for Allentown, and there are recent rumors of new residential buildings in the works for sites downtown.