There is an old theater adage that states, “conflict creates action.” Buffalo’s Central Terminal has certainly had its share of conflicts and problems, but it wasn’t until Harry Stinson and his team stepped up that there was a clear actionable solution.
In a press conference earlier today, Mr. Stinson, half-jokingly, pleaded with the residents of Buffalo and the CTRC to “give him the keys.” Over the last 25 years, Harry Stinson has made it his specialty to renovate and revitalize historic structures. In the last five years alone, Stinson Developments has completed more than $100 million in projects in Hamilton, Ontario. He sees the development of the Central Terminal as a passion project, as well as a phenomenal opportunity for the East Side. “I’ve met a lot of people in this process and come to love Buffalo over the last 14 months,” he said today.
Much has been written about Stinson and his development company over the last year, from the RFP process to being awarded the Designated Developer, and the recent joint letter to train station committee (see below). The CTRC wrote that the parties were concluding the DD process, terms for a purchase and sale agreement were being finalized in order to transition ownership. Recently, local developer Doug Swift, known for his development of Riverworks and partnership with Howard Zemsky on Larkinville, also joined the Stinson team. “I joined the team because I have confidence in their abilities and felt it was the right time to restore the Central Terminal.”
Everything seemed to be on track (pun intended) until last week when Stinson received a text message, then a call from media, and subsequently, the CTRC’s press release where they indicated that they want to bring in the Urban Land Institute to study the terminal. In a statement released by Stinson Developments, “Years ago, with the help of competent architects, CTRC published their own master plan for the redevelopment of the terminal. Stinson Developments started with that plan. We spent 4,000 man-hours and over $600,000 refining that plan and engaging the community to form our vision for the terminal. We worked closely with CTRC and presented numerous iterations of the plans as they developed. We believe our plan is very strong and very viable. We disagree that another study is needed at this time and it will needlessly delay the restoration of the Central Terminal possibly as much as two years. However, we greatly respect the Urban Land Institute. Surely our efforts will be of great value to this process and improve the end result. We plan on responding to the RFP that should follow the study.”
After a whirlwind week of speculation, it seems the board has invited Stinson’s team to participate in the ULI study. It’s worth noting that to date, no one on the CTRC’s board has publicly taken responsibility for releasing the memo. Ironically, at the same time last week, unbeknownst to CTRC, Doug Swift and members of the Stinson Developments team were in a meeting with a company interested in bringing the film industry to Buffalo.
Gail Leibowitz, Brickz City Ventures, released the following statement, “We are excited at the prospect of bringing the film and creative arts industry to the Eastside of Buffalo and, in particular, to the Central Terminal. We began our property search a year ago and immediately knew the terminal was the perfect location for our project, given the grandeur, space and location. It was just as apparent that Harry Stinson, Doug Swift and Steve Fitzmaurice were the ideal partners for us. They complement our collective backgrounds of Operations, media, sales and marketing. In addition to being seasoned and successful developers, they embraced the concept of adding a project not only of commercial enrichment but of significant social impact and inclusion as well. We will be training and hiring the people from the community so people will be able to afford to stay in their neighborhoods as new investment comes.” Dorian Forbes, also with Brickz City Ventures, grew up on the East Side of Buffalo, until College when he moved to Atlanta, GA. Mr. Forbes says, “I would like nothing more than to return to my roots and bring to Buffalo an industry that I watched grow in Atlanta in under 10 years, to a 7 billion dollar industry. I want people to remain in the city after college and pursue a career here because we will have an industry to do so. The potential for jobs and careers is tremendous and The Central Terminal is the perfect location, both in its scale and layout, to begin this process along with our partners. I truly believe it will reinvigorate the city and do for Buffalo what it has done for Atlanta.”
Stinson’s group stands by their plans and are confident in the concept they presented to CTRC. But are careful to note, that like any large complicated process, their concept continues to evolve. The group said that several large office tenants have approached them over the last six months, they want to have their headquarters at the terminal. “Everyone who contacts us – they don’t start out with what’s the rent for your space -it’s ‘wow, this building is so cool. Can we walk through it to decide what space we want to be in?”
The group said their press conference today was a promise to the residents of Buffalo that they don’t plan on going away, “We plan to participate in this process and at the same time, we’ll continue to work on our proposal, making it stronger and continue to engage the surrounding community.”
Below are copies of the plans:
Buffalo Rising will follow this planning process, and we would also like to hear your thoughts on the development of the Central Terminal. Please leave a comment below and share this story with your friends and neighbors to encourage a community conversation.
Lead photo credit Wikimedia Commons