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Record Theatre Reuse Envisioned by Local Development Team

Local developer and attorney Jason Yots is leading a group of young developers hoping to breathe new life into a landmark building on Main Street in Buffalo. The team – consisting of BuffaLove Development, Preservation Studios, Urban Vantage, and Yots’ Common Bond Real Estate – has announced a plan to adapt the former Record Theatre buildings at 1786 Main Street into a mixed-use facility that they envision will include food-based retail, neighborhood services and destination entertainment and recreation facilities.  The team also is considering a rental housing component for the project.

Located directly across Main Street from Canisius College’s Koessler Center, the complex of buildings, which includes 1040 Lafayette Avenue, contains about 33,000 square feet of developable space, along with green space and off-street parking.  The facility had been in continuous use until 2017 with the death of Record Theatre founder Leonard Silver, who acquired the buildings in the mid-1970s for his music publishing company and retail record operation.

1934 Exterior View of the Monroe Building

Prior to Silver’s acquisition, the buildings enjoyed a long automobile-based history.  Local architect G. Morton Wolfe designed the building as an automobile showroom for Charles F. Monroe, which opened in 1920.  Monroe operated at that location, known as “the Monroe Building,” until 1931, when the Ford Motor Company purchased and renovated it. Ford offered their full line of models and full service repairs, making the Monroe Building an all-inclusive destination for car owners. After Ford sold the Monroe Building in the mid-1930s, a number of automobile showrooms operated there until Silver’s acquisition.

Current view of the showroom, where much of the original detail remains hidden

Much of the Record Theatre facility currently is covered by yellow corrugated metal, which the developers intend to remove in order to reveal and restore the original brick and windowed facade.  Recent investigatory work by the developers revealed numerous intact historic features from the buildings’ automobile heyday. “We were pleasantly surprised to find that much of the buildings’ original integrity remains in place beneath the exterior coverings and interior walls that were added for Record Theatre,” said Mike Puma, a Preservation Studios principal and its Director of Technical Services.

The showroom of the Monroe Building in 1932

The team believes that, following renovations, the buildings will be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, and the developers hope to tap federal and state historic tax credits to help finance their adaptive reuse.  “We think that the facility’s rich automobile history and intact architectural features bode well for National Registry eligibility,” noted Derek King, a Preservation Studios principal, historian, and its Director of Operations. After consulting with the State Historic Preservation Office, Preservation Studios will handle the tax credit application and will prepare the National Register nomination.

Nearly 100% of the showroom details remain behind later walls and are in great shape

As for future uses at the building, the developers are considering a few ideas that they believe will serve the neighborhood well.  A small grocery, a co-working facility and a cafe/restaurant are among the ideas the team is exploring. “This area of the city feels like a food desert,” said Richard Rogers of Urban Vantage, who also resides in the nearby Hamlin Park neighborhood. “There aren’t very many restaurants, and fresh produce and meats are tough to find within a reasonable distance.”  Regarding the potential for co-working space, Rogers noted, “These days, a lot of people are self-employed, or they work remotely. They still want an office where they can go during the day, a productive place where they can be creative and interact with other professionals.” The developers also intend to seek input on possible uses from nearby neighbors and Canisius College, and they will request expressions of interest from potential tenants.

Original brickwork remains below the metal cladding, along with inset terra cotta tiles and the original second floor windows

In addition to restoring the buildings, the developers also hope to generate positive spinoff for the neighborhood.  Given the facility’s long automobile-related history, environmental contamination at the site is a possibility. “We’ll clean up whatever we find in order to make the project safe for our tenants and the surrounding environment,” commented Bernice Radle, the founder of BuffaLove Development and Little Wheel Construction, which will handle portions of the project’s construction.  “We’ll also be exploring various sustainable building practices to reduce the building’s energy consumption, during both construction and operation,” noted Radle.

Project Logo by Drew Brown

The development team also will press for improvements along Main Street, including streetscaping, traffic calming and enhanced lighting.  “We’re developing some concepts to discuss with City officials that we think will reduce this stretch of Main Street to a more human scale and make it more pedestrian- and bike-friendly,” said Travis Gordon of Urban Vantage, which will handle urban planning and economic development aspects of the project.

The developers hope to acquire the buildings during 2019, with construction to follow into 2020.  The pending sale was brokered by Todd Danni.


For tenancy information, please contact:

Bernice Radle, 716.235.5563, bernice@buffalovedevelopment.com

Derek King, 716.725.6410, derekking@preservationstudios.com

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

View All Articles by Mike Puma
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