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Um, what about our beloved downtown hostel?

The City recently sent out a Request for Proposals for 667 Main Street (see here). While it’s great that The City is trying to get out of the real estate business, this is one building that should not simply be unloaded without proper thought and due diligence. Why? Because it’s home to the city’s highly ranked Hostel Buffalo-Niagara. Over the years, this hostel has managed to make a name for itself locally and internationally as a clean and welcoming dwelling in Downtown Buffalo. Before all of the developers showed up to get a piece of the action, this hostel quietly ran its operations in an efficient and effective manner.

Say hello to our newest guests of dancers & musicians arriving here all the way from Finland!!! Be sure to check out their performances during the FinnFest USA weekend at Kleinhans Music Hall and at various locations around town. Tervetuloa!

Now, RFPs are due to The City tomorrow, and the hostel’s board has hardly had time to react. Thankfully, board members are not quite ready to roll over. Instead, they are putting their best feet forward, and will be submitting their own proposal. While they do not have deep pockets, they have spirit and clout… and the ability to raise the necessary funds to purchase the building. They also know how to operated a very successful hostel that has been around since 1996.

Hostel Buffalo-Niagara is a cozy communal homestead in downtown. Offering a fully equipped kitchen, lounges, wi-fi, laundry, book exchange, bicycle share & local knowledgable staff!

The only problem is that the board knows that it is going to be facing some big guns in the form of investors and developers. I spoke to board member Tony Caferro who told me that, given a chance, the hostel could renovate the other half of the building, which is currently in total disrepair. They have the resources to get the job done, if they are allowed to stave off other bidders with deep pockets. “We kind of got sideswiped with all of this,” said Tony. “We didn’t see it coming. Now the city of Buffalo could lose this incredible asset. The hostel has become a viable place for all sorts of people to stay. It’s a non-profit that a lot of people are rallying behind at the moment. If a developer buys it, chances are they would look at the bottom line and see that there is more money to be made, regardless whether the hostel is good for the community or not. We have put together our own proposal, where we are allowed to raise money and renovate the building ourselves. The hostel has been there for 20 years, and suddenly it’s in jeopardy. We’ve been trying to scramble, but we need more time. Hopefully the City sees what we have done for Buffalo and gives us right of first refusal.”

Amazing people from all over the US and the world. This group from Boston University came to Buffalo to spend their spring break volunteering for Habitat for Humanity Buffalo. 

One would think that a non-profit that has been doing the right thing in Buffalo for 20 years would at least be given consideration. Or maybe there’s another plan that the City can work out that would benefit all parties. Regardless, the City should take a stand to make sure that this incredible Buffalo asset is not lost. Tony mentioned that if they lose this space on Main Street, that’s pretty much the end of the hostel. Unless the City does what’s right and figures out how to resolve the issue.

This lovely group of Korean explorers is taking Buffalo by storm thanks to a Free Bike Share!

Great cities have hostels. These are places where a wide variety of people say, from hip business professionals to musicians. It’s a lifestyle choice. The people that choose to stay in hostels do it for a variety of reasons. They are inexpensive, they are social, they are generally socially minded, they offer an inside look into their surroundings, they have conveniences that other short term and extended stays don’t have, and the cities that have them covet them.

An awesome group of kids from the UK road trippin’ a portion of the US, exploring the falls then to NYC to fly out

“We’re not walking into City Hall begging,” Tony told me. “We’re rolling with the punches and trying to figure out how to save ourselves in the best way that we can. “We know that we can convert the rest of the building into longterm house, and by doing so, we will be able to save the hostel. We’re just asking for a chance to work this out – we have a 30-day battle on our hands. Tomorrow morning, we’re marching from the hostel to City Hall with our proposal in hand.”

Dale & Jon “sharing a moment” after coming into town from Rochester to see The Woods Brothers next door at Town Ballroom

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Written by queenseyes

queenseyes

Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

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  • greenca

    I’m all for the hostel. But “hip business professionals” stay there? Really? Talk about working for a company with a very tight travel budget.

    • eagercolin

      Not just hip business professionals, but also musicians! An incredible range of people stay here!

      • MikeKCohen

        Businesses who know value for money and when to save ? those are the startups who succeed. And that’s what’s needed – all big city tourism ventures huge hotels and resort complexes are complimented by Inn’s, B and B’s, and yes Hostels…
        If you want to be big in the travel industry you have to cover all the bases and give chances to all businesses.
        Perhaps the city needs the building for something else – but – also – #Buffalo, New York, should encourage more small Inn’s and they make perfect family owned businesses.
        And give tourism that local input large corporate properties just don’t have.
        travel through Europe or Asia? millions of tourists prefer the small inns, hostels, and, BnB’s – relocate it if the property is needed but don’t lose that segment of tourism.

    • Ivan Putski Jr

      hip business professionals stay at the Avant. Everybody knows that

  • Lori

    Hostels are such a necessary part of urban tourism; I really hope that they can keep the space and maintain its use as a hostel. We have all of these hotels popping up in the city, but that doesn’t negate the need for affordable beds for visitors and travelers. When faced with rates of $100+/night or a cheaper chain hotel out by the airport (and feeling impossibly far from the city) there aren’t really other options. As someone who’s frequented hostels while backpacking, thru-hiking and visiting other cities for festivals I can attest to how great a function they serve. They’re not just places to spend the night, they’re a communal experience where you’re meeting new people and sharing experiences.

  • Randy503

    Who owns the building? If the hostel is a 501(c)(3), the owner can donate the building and get a huge tax deduction. Or someone can buy the building and donate it, or perhaps rent it out at below market rates to get a tax deduction. The hostel people should talk to a good non profit specialits attorney to see all the available options.

    • 300miles

      the city owns it

      • neice

        So donating it is out of the question smh when was the last time the city persued a venture that was more about people than money

        • Wally Balls

          The East Side, comes to mind. Prime waterfront real estate as well.

          • neice

            Im sorry, im not sure i understand your comment…

          • Wally Balls

            First off, it wasn’t a comment. It was a question. Secondly, I’m not sure you understand the response. The last time the city cared more about what people want than it did profit? When it allowed poor people to monopolize incredibly profitable waterfront property with section 8 housing.

          • Matt Marcinkiewicz

            uh, neice didn’t understand *your* comment, not his/her own question, moron.

          • Wally Balls

            Dude, you both need to learn to read.

          • Matt Marcinkiewicz

            your own comment contained a question mark but was not a question. ‘The East Side comes to mind’ is a response to his question regardless of whether or not you choose to append a question mark there, as if to suggest ‘shouldn’t it’. You mention two places that you thought were examples of people over money. You were obviously not asking if they qualified, but suggesting that they did

          • neice

            Thank you matt

          • neice

            What location are you ralking about exactly??(profitable waterfront property) Like the other gentleman pointed out “your question” was actually a comment. It didn’t ask anything…

      • Randy503

        Darn. So it’s a political decision. The convention and tourist bureau should get behind this. T

  • Matthew Digati

    I worked here for 2 summers and met the most incredible people from all over the world. This is a HUGE asset to our city and virtually nobody knew about it. With the Theatre District and Buffalo as a whole on the upswing having affordable places like this open our city to an entire different type of tourist scene. The building is in great shape and the interior is beautiful on every floor. It’d be a big loss to see the hostel leave.

  • UrbanLove

    Do the right thing here, Buffalo: keep the hostel operating. It adds enormous value to downtown.

    • Wally Balls

      The right thing is real estate competitiveness. If the hostel can afford to stay, then it should stay.

      • Randy503

        Sorry, but that is wrong. We need amenities that actually attract people and provide services to all levels of visitors. A hostel does both.

        • Wally Balls

          No, its not wrong. The hostel doesn’t HAVE to be in that specific spot. If you can’t afford it, move.

  • grovercleveland

    Why can’t the hostel simply move for a different location? Why are they entitled to stay in a specific location?

    If this hostel is so well used, well run and popular, surely they can survive at another location.

    • Randy503

      The location is great for hostelers, many of whom do not have a car and can afford a taxi or to rent a car.

      • Slu

        Are there no other currently vacant locations on Main Street suitable for a hostel?

  • grovercleveland

    Nice to see that people aren’t even willing to see what the RFP returns before deciding the hostel is the best use of this property. Getting properties back on the payroll in a city full of non tax paying properties is far more important that this particular hostel. If this hostel is so great it will do well in another location. If the market for hostels is so robust, others will pick up the slack.

  • Randy503

    It’s true. I read several dozen reviews on Yelp, Tripadvisor and other websites, and it averages 4.5 out of 5 stars, and people rave about the cleanliness and the friendliness of the staff. What better ambassadors for our region a terrific hostel? Hostels welcome people who might not be able to afford to travel to Buffalo without it. So that is money coming in, plus all the incidentals they spend money on — the food, travel expenses, and the taxes we collect. it’s a net gain for the city. And hopefully, they talk up the city to their friends, and that only helps our image and our bottomline.

    The tourist bureau should support this. It’s not competition with hotels, as they are targeting a different demographic.

  • Johnny Pizza

    The City of Buffalo exists to provide services to residents who pay for them. It does not exist to own real estate to provide cheap room nights for low budget travelers. If my taxes are paying to upkeep a building which loses money so that a guy from Toronto can stay for $30/night I have a problem with it, especially if the alternative to sell the building exists.

    • grovercleveland

      great points

  • Mytwocents

    Surely the hostel can operate elsewhere in the city.

  • Flyguy2pt0

    Considering the snails pace of development at canalside and recent talk of exploring designs for a public restroom facility, police substation, and visitors center down there perhaps they can add in there some real estate design for a 50 bed hostel to be funded in some creative way through hostel resources and some sort of quasi governmental arrangements. Taxpayers fund ever expanding prison complexes to house people so why not fund at least partially something a bit more productive and beneficial to the canalside area thats meant to be a tourist draw anyway? This way canalside gets some more square footage built and some additional tourists in that core area.

  • 300miles

    A well run hostel could be generating international awareness for Buffalo in a way normal tourism investments can’t achieve. There is probably a way for the city to sell the property while keeping the hostel there or in a similar location downtown. I think the hostel pays rent to the city based on a percentage of it’s revenue, but it hasn’t been mentioned here whether that would be enough to be considered for a normal lease with a commercial landlord.

    • Matthew Moje

      The buffalo news ran an article and they say the hostel pays the city about $10k a year….

      • 300miles

        Ok. that’s pretty low rent then.

  • G Orty

    If you actually read the RFP, BRO, before reacting like a whiny child having her toys taken away, you’d see that the Hostel’s lease, which has been regularly renewed in 5-year terms since 2001 and which devotes half of the Hostel’s net revenue to the building owner as rent, was just recently renewed and will expire in July 2021. That’s more than four more years, for the mathematically disinterested, which is plenty of time to negotiate any move or new lease agreements. So first of all, it’s not “suddenly in jeopardy.” Any prospective building owner would glady take on a property with the security of an existing tenant with a track record of paying rent for 16 (not 20) years. Enough with this low-bar drivel that pretends to be savvy reporting. All it does is stir up emotion for something that doesn’t need to be cried about.

    • grovercleveland

      oh snap

    • Matt Marcinkiewicz

      good stuff.

  • G Orty

    “Before all of the developers showed up to get a piece of the action, this hostel quietly ran its operations in an efficient and effective manner.” – anti-development much?

    “Now, RFPs are due to The City tomorrow, and the hostel’s board has hardly had time to react.” – no less time than anyone else proposing to do something with the property.

    “Um, what about our beloved downtown hostel?” – stop fanning the flames that aren’t there.

    “One would think that a non-profit that has been doing the right thing in Buffalo for 20 years would at least be given consideration.” – they aren’t being shut out of anything or given any less consideration than anyone else.

    This reads like a third-grader’s sad tribute to a pony.

  • Captain Picard

    I’ve always been very impressed that Buffalo had a hostel of this size and character. Being downtown is a bonus, so I can see why they’d be resistant to moving. I think the city has a responsibility to at least assist them in relocating to a suitable and preferably central location. A good well-run hostel can be very beneficial for a sort of “grass-roots” tourism that can bring in people on a budget. The recent high-end hotel development is great, but there should be at least one place for college students coming to see Niagara Falls.

    • G Orty

      They’re not moving when the property changes hands! The RFP clearly lays out that their lease is good for another 4+ more years. That will still be binding with whomever the building’s new owner is. This is just another BRO fluff piece with little actual digging into issues.

      • greenca

        After it’s sold, they’ll likely have to close at the end of the lease term. A developer will not buy the building and renew a lease with a cash flow of only $10,000. It’s doubtful that the hostel can operate in another building downtown with similar terms, and that’s unfortunate.

        • G Orty

          As the saying goes: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The Hostel operators have plenty of time to figure it out.

  • Mary Kate

    We need the hostel. It makes cities more accessible to all. That lends to the vibrant nature of an urban setting – which is what we are!!!

  • JKR

    Buffalo doesn’t have enough hotels, too bad all the little hotels and/or SROs got witch hunted by urban renewal.