This article is the first in a series by Buildup Buffalo, exploring the unique and often overlooked corners of the real estate world here in Buffalo, NY.
When you first meet Lisa Menchetti, you might not think “real estate developer.” Like so many others who find themselves renovating commercial properties, Lisa was forced to make the most of an unexpected opportunity. The Gridlock Lacquer Buffalo owner, purchased the former Nancy’s Salon in Kaisertown for her business production and retail sales a few years ago. In a short time, like most small businesses do, Menchetti’s company evolved and she no longer needed the storefront for herself. So, she embarked on a renovation project.
Prior to the renovation, Lisa enlisted the help of City of Buffalo Councilman Rick Fontana and NY State Senator Tim Kennedy’s office to help her put together a Buffalo Main Street Initiative grant application for Clinton Street. The Buffalo Main Street Initiative is a program offered through Governor Cuomo’s Better Buffalo Fund, a Buffalo Billion Initiative designed to assist with revitalization of mixed-use commercial corridors throughout the City of Buffalo. Three rounds of funding have been awarded to date.
“The Better Buffalo Fund is really about transforming our neighborhoods, while still preserving their rich history and heart,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “It’s people like Lisa, who have a vision and a mission, that are bringing this concept to life. We were proud to support her BMSI application, because she clearly cares about this project and this city.”
Schiller Park Community Service was awarded a $300,000 BMSI grant to assist mixed-use and commercial properties on a stretch of Clinton Avenue. The need was evident in the program’s success: nineteen projects applied and eighteen were awarded funding. The projects range from a $75,000 award for the renovation of a storefront and apartment, to a $3,000 façade improvement.
The Kaisertown Coalition was not incorporated, and therefore not able to apply for or manage the grant, so Buffalo Councilmember Rich Fontana helped shepherd the project through Schiller Park Community Services. Alma Brown, of Clinton Brown Company Architecture, was retained for Grant Administration Services.
“This $300,000 BMSI is making a difference on Clinton Street. The Lovejoy Councilmember, Rich Fontana, his staff and the Kaisertown commercial property owners created great interest and we have 18 active projects, 7 have been completed,” says Brown.
Councilmember Fontanta, for his part, had only glowing things to say about Menchetti and her investment in the neighborhood. “Lisa Menchetti is a rising star on the Buffalo business scene who understands old school business practice yet employs new and exciting ideas to bring people and business to our Clinton business strip,” said Fontana. “We are lucky to have such a strong advocate for our Kaisertown Neighborhood and the City of Buffalo.”
Lisa Menchetti’s project at 1840 Clinton, took a dated, tiny one-story salon building and transformed it into a an eye-catching white washed storefront with turquoise accents. The highlight of Menchetti’s renovation has to be Vinny Alejandro’s Kaisertown mural, sponsored by Cellino Plumbing. The retro style mural features pink flamingos, a subtle reference to the long history of the tchotchkes’ presence in Kaisertown and Buffalo.
“I know it’s a small building,” says Lisa, “but the right tenant can be transformative for this corridor. There are a lot of buildings with dark storefronts that don’t need to be that way. This funding is key to transform the neighborhood. I’m excited for the other projects to come online so we can start to see the full impact.”
Kaisertown was recently touted as Buffalo’s most accessible neighborhood, and is home to the glorious fish fries at Wiechec’s Lounge, an active parish and architectural gem in Saint Casimir’s, and B West (retro furniture) studio. If you are the perfect tenant for Menchetti’s little-building-that-could in Kaisertown, check out the Buildup Buffalo listing.