Canadian developer Harry Stinson, is looking to get a second major development project off the ground in Buffalo. After taking a swing at the Central Terminal, and rebounding to tackle the former Adam’s Mark (now Buffalo Grand Hotel), Stinson has now set his eyes upon the Wonder Bread factory building.
I met up with Stinson at the Buffalo Grand last week to discuss his vision for the Wonder Bread building. He started off by saying that these are the types of projects that can change the landscape of a neighborhood – even help spearhead the rebuilding of the East Side of Buffalo.
To see the “creation of a village” direction that he would like to go with all of this, check out the video below:
It was six years ago the Stinson first took a look at the Wonder Bread building, located at 313 Fougeron Street. At the time, he was looking at key properties around the city, trying to figure what it would take to trigger a few key population density nodes along The Belt Line. When he saw the Wonder Bread building, he had an “aha” moment – he said that he could envision turning the two acre site into another Buffalo destination, especially due to the property’s convenient proximity to Genesee Street that links to the airport, and is a straight shot into downtown. The building – a quarter million square feet – could be another Chandler Street, or Larkinville, if the rest of the site was built out as a village, according to Stinson. There are already some nearby success stories, including the growing success of ReUse Action, and the continued investment into MLK, Jr. Park.
He talked about building a sister building on the site that would pay homage to the Wonder Bread building, while retaining the character of the original historic building as much as possible.
“Did you know that there are two levels underground?” Stinson asked me. “I started paying closer attention the building when it was being considered for landmark designation. I’ve been following the East Side. It’s a building that people are familiar with – it would make a terrific portfolio investment. The City and the State have become somewhat obsessed with the East Side, as this is the last frontier. At the same time, nothing has really happened – it is my belief that you have to do something big… something outrageous to get the ball moving, hence my interest in the Central Terminal. The Wonder Bread building can become a community unto itself – it has the potential to have full underground parking for every resident. The complex also has plenty of scale – I could push to have 600,000 square feet of mixed use on the site, with the second building.”
As for the condition of the building, Stinson told me that it’s in decent shape. Although it’s been vacant for a number of years, it’s only been left to rot for three, because the utilities remained on for quite some time, even when it was vacant.
“Once you shut the utilities off, the place begins to fall apart,” Stinson warned. “It’s pretty dank right now. I want to put together a good team for this project. This would be a real commitment to the community, but I think that Buffalo is ready for it. At this point, I have a firm deal in place, but it’s still going to take some time. I am committed to the Buffalo Grand Hotel, and there’s a lot of work to be done on that project.”
*On a side note, the Wonder Bread building sits next to another fabulous historic structure that is still in operation – The Milk-Bone factory. On a recent visit, I discovered, much like Canalside smells like Cheerios, this district smells a bit like dog biscuits. That could be an interesting selling point with apartment renters who have dogs as pets.
Not only does the Milk-Bone building add some incredible character to the neighborhood, it also helps to create a very unusual dynamic, similar to how General Mills adds a modern day industrial component to the waterfront.