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Downtown Area Development Recap: 2017 Edition

2017 was a big year for downtown area development with two game-changing projects wrapping up and a third starting construction. UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital opened bringing thousands of employees and visitors to the burgeoning Medical Campus. In downtown proper, Douglas Jemal shocked skeptics when he kicked-off his multi-phased effort to bring new life to the Seneca One complex.

Map pdf here

Residential development continues to grab the headlines downtown despite developers venturing into other city neighborhoods for adaptive reuse projects. Six downtown developments were completed this year with 262 units, all apartments.

Frontier Development Initiatives and Savarino Companies’ Buffalo River Landing was the largest project completed last year bringing 78 units to the Ohio Street corridor. In Allentown, Anthony LoRusso opened the 58-unit Allentown Square Apartments at Maryland Street and West Avenue. Norstar Development opened the 48-unit first phase of its Shoreline Apartments makeover on Niagara Street. Closer to downtown, HELP USA opened 47 apartments at 368 Broadway that combined adaptive reuse with a significant addition.

Along Main Street, Kissling Interests completed 26 high-end apartments on the upper floors of the White Building at 298 Main Street. Roger Trettel added one unit at 523 Main Street in a building anchored by Misuta Chow’s and is wrapping-up renovations at 50 Broadway for commercial tenants. Trettel partnered with Steve Camina and others to bring three apartments and commercial space to redeveloped buildings at 5-7 Genesee Street overlooking Roosevelt Square.

Residential Underway.  Work is underway on an additional 336 units. In what will surpass The Lafayette as the largest market-rate downtown residential development, Lofts @ Seneca One is creating 137 apartments in the complex’s annex buildings.

Site work has started on Ellicott Development’s Symphony Circle Active Living project and First Amherst Development’s Nineteen North projects in Allentown. The Symphony Circle project will see 119 units of senior apartments built on the site of the now demolished Nazareth Nursing Home. At the eastern end of North Street, First Amherst is constructing 39 apartments in a new four-story building.

Ellicott Development has two additional projects underway with residential components. 500 Pearl will have 14 apartments and the redevelopment of the Seneca Plumbing property at Seneca and Michigan has four units.

There will be four apartments on the fifth floor of Pegula Sports’ 79 Perry redevelopment project. Seven apartments are being created in a historic building owned by St. Paul’s Cathedral at 128 Pearl Street and Amy and Mark Judd are creating 12 apartments in the seven-story building at 510 Washington Street.

Residential Proposed.  There is no sign of a looming slowdown in residential development. Three large affordable housing projects were announced last year. Norstar Development is proceeding with plans to replace the southern portions of the Shoreline Apartment complex with 214 apartments and townhouses.

Stuart Alexander and Associates, SCG Development, and Dr. Rhonda Ricks received approvals for a multi-phase, mixed-use development on the former Buffalo Forge site at Broadway and Mortimer Street. It will include 159 mixed income apartments and twenty-five market-rate townhouses. Sinatra & Company Real Estate and Oak Michigan Development Corp. unveiled plans to renovate 135 existing units and construct 15 new ones at McCarley Gardens located at the southern edge of the Medical Campus.

Two senior apartment complexes are in the works for the downtown area. Hispanics United is proposing 46 units at Virginia and 10th Street and the Episcopal Church has revived plans for 28 apartments at the Ascension Church site at North and Franklin streets. The Ascension project was denied by the Preservation Board but that action is going to be appealed to the City Council for a final decision.

In a follow-up to its Glenny Project, Priam Enterprises is working on plans for The Marin, 64 apartments on the upper floors of the Marine Trust Building at Main and Seneca streets. Nearby at 82 Pearl Street, Cherokee Associates is planning 12 apartments in the four-story, 19,552 sq.ft. building that is located adjacent to Pearl Street Grill and Brewery.

Rocco Termini purchased historic buildings at 68-72 Sycamore Street saving two buildings that faced an uncertain future. Four apartments are planned for the properties.

At 15 Allen Street, Huamei Wang received approvals to demolish a two-story building while saving reusable portions of the front façade and incorporate it into a new building on the site that will contain ten apartments. Further west, the owners of Cantina Loco purchased the long-vacant building at 185 Allen Street. Upper Cut Deli, a sandwich shop, will occupy the first floor of the building. The Preservation Board is still reviewing plans for that project.

Jeff Bochiechio and Joseph Daham purchased historic buildings 181 Elm Street in late-June and are said to be planning apartments for the properties. At the southern end of the Midway, Scott Croce is planning two apartments and commercial space for 469 Delaware Avenue. And on the waterfront, Ellicott Development is proposing two new townhouses in its Waterfront Place project.

Office development has been taking a back seat to other downtown development for some time. New space coming on line has been driven by an anchor tenant such as Delaware North or Catholic Health, or targeting medical tenants such as Conventus.

Two all-office projects were completed last year. Uniland Development finished the three-story, 23,000 sq.ft. office building at 520 Ellicott Street that is anchored by DaVita Dialysis and Evergreen Health wrapped up a five-story addition to the Roanoke Building at S. Elmwood Avenue and W. Chippewa Street.

Ellicott Development’s 500 Pearl project will have 52,000 sq.ft. of office space coming online late this year. Ellicott is also working to convert the former Our Lady of Lourdes church into commercial and residential space and construct a six-story, 167,000 sq.ft. office building to the south. Pegula Sports and Entertainment is renovating 79 Perry Street into office, residential and restaurant space. The commercial space in that project is already spoken for.

Two office projects were announced in 2017. In April, McGuire Development unveiled a three-story building with 48,000 sq.ft. of space at 425 Michigan Avenue fronting its Compass East property. At Ellicott and E. Tupper streets, Uniland Development teamed up with Rocco Termini on a proposal for office space and a second Emerson High School. With the Emerson school now planned for W. Huron Street, Uniland is said to be refining its plans to redevelop 505 Ellicott Street for office use and long-term, build a new building at Ellicott and Tupper.

Tenants looking for immediate contiguous downtown space have one large option at Seneca One Tower. Jemal Development brought on CBRE Buffalo to find tenants for the 600,000 sq.ft. of available office space there.

Ciminelli Real Estate has office space planned for 201 Ellicott and also at 33 High Street. The timing for each of those significant projects is uncertain. Office space is also planned for The Krog Group’s redevelopment of the Trico Complex at the southern end of the Medical Campus.

There were no blockbuster leases signed last year. The most significant deal announced was Ciminelli Real Estate’s headquarters move from Williamsville to 25,000 sq.ft. of space at 50 Fountain Plaza. Ciminelli will relocate into its new space later this year.

Campus Labs expanded and relocated from 210 Ellicott Street to the White Building at 298 Main Street. That deal was signed in 2016. Two medical-related tenants signed on to anchor Ellicott Development’s 1091 Main Street project.

The Martin Group consolidated its offices into 620 Main Street, a historic Theater District building it purchased in 2015. Its former headquarters at 477 Main Street did not stay vacant for long. CBRE|Buffalo purchased the building and relocated its offices there in November.

Other significant 2017 deals included Huron Consulting Group and Amber Pharmacy taking space in Uniland’s 520 Ellicott Street, Clark Patterson Associates expanding at 26 Mississippi Street, ACV Auctions taking additional space at the Innovation Center, and Sandhill Investment Management leasing 7,000 sq.ft. on the top floor of 40 Fountain plaza.

There’s one big tenant known to be looking at office options. Freed Maxick CPA is considering relocating from the Liberty Building when its lease expires in 2019. The company currently occupies 39,000 sq.ft. of space spread across three floors.

One hotel opened last year. Mark Croce’s Curtiss Hotel opened at the corner of W. Huron and Franklin Streets in late June. The stunning hotel features 68 rooms, an urban spa, restaurant Chez Ami on the ground floor, and rooftop lounge, VUE.

Downtown has seen seven other hotels open since 2007 adding 868 much needed rooms to the lodging scene (Courtyard by Marriott- 102; Embassy suites- 229; Hilton Garden Inn- 123; Lafayette Hotel- 57; Marriott Canalside- 205; Webb- 32; and, Westin- 120).

Three hotels are under construction. Ellicott Development’s 500 Pearl project will include a 112-room Aloft Hotel that will open in the fall. Landco H&L appears to be back on track to put a 300-room Wyndham Hotel into the former AM&A’s Department Store. Benderson Development is busy converting the former 167-room Holiday Inn at 620 Delaware into a 105-room Residence Inn by Marriott.

At least one other hotel is in the works. Krog Corp. and Hart Hotels have plans for a 114-room extended-stay hotel in the Trico complex. Ellicott Development has talked about a hotel component for its Carlo project in Waterfront Village but the status of that development is uncertain. Harry Stinson has talked about renovating the Adams Mark Hotel into the Buffalo Grand Hotel. He has not closed on that purchase as of yet.

Other Projects
There is finally steel rising within the Canalside footprint. Explore & More Children’s Museum is underway and is expected to open late this year. The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation unveiled plans for two new buildings at Canalside. The proposed pavilion and interpretive buildings will include permanent public restrooms, programming space, elevated decks, and concessions. Nearby, a $40 million expansion of Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino was completed early in the year.

In a closely-watched RFP, McGuire Development Company and Mark Croce’s Buffalo Development Corporation were selected by the Buffalo Public School District to develop a second Emerson Culinary School The 80,000 sq.ft. facility will be located at the C.W. Miller Livery Stable, a six-story former horse stable, located at 73 W. Huron Street. Work on the project will be underway shortly.

Work is wrapping up on a replacement for the Ellicott-Goodrich Garage on the medical campus. With 1,825 spaces, the new ramp is double the capacity of the one it replaces. In another transportation related development, the NFTA is working on plans to create a transit hub along N. Division Street.

The City of Buffalo has started interior work on the former Dillon Federal Couthouse on Niagara Square. The landmark building will house a combined fire and police headquarters.

Looking Ahead
With the economy holding steady, developers should be busy in 2018. Sources say Krog Corp. has financing in place for its Trico complex make-over and work in earnest should be underway soon. Ellicott Development has plans for further projects along Ohio Street including redevelopment of the Cooperage complex. We should have news on developer interest at Canalside’s South Aud Block. An RFP for the site was issued last year.

In a bellwether for the downtown retail market, Douglas Development’s retail space at Seneca One Tower will come online this year. The company has not announced any signed tenants as of yet.

We’ll also be watching Ciminelli Development to see which downtown area projects they advance. The firm is refining its plans for a mixed-use complex at 201 Ellicott Street, is planning an office building at 30 High Street, and is also expected to release a modified plan for a residential project in Waterfront Village.

Written by WCPerspective


Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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