Schneider Development Services (Shea’s Seneca developer) hosted a dedication ceremony for its newly restored marquee at Shea’s Seneca yesterday. The funding for this latest restoration element came from National Grid – a $200,000 grant via the utility company’s Main Street Revitalization program.
Yesterday also marked the official grand opening of Public Espresso + Coffee within the complex. Public was the last remaining commercial space available at 2178 Seneca Street.
Surprisingly, the restoration of the historic marquee was never a given. Apparently, the rest of the building was such a huge undertaking that there was some doubt whether there would be enough funding to restore the building’s flashing beacon.
“Due to construction cost over runs, it would have been very difficult for us to re-create the marquee without the help of National Grid,” said Jake Schneider, President of Schneider Development Services.
Without the matching grant from National Grid’s Main Street Revitalization program, the marquee would not have been possible, which would have been a major bummer.
“Restoration for Shea’s Seneca included apartments, and spaces for banquets and retail, which meant new electricity requirements, which often are necessary when older buildings are updated,” said National Grid regional director Ken Kujawa. “We often partner with customers and introduce our grant programs, which can play a role in making a vision for an adaptive reuse project such as this a reality.”
Currently, the commercial spaces at Shea’s Seneca are fully occupied by Shea’s Seneca Banquets & Catering, April Spencer Floral Design, Bottle Rocket Beer Reserve, and Cantina 62. The fifth and final commercial tenant, Public Espresso + Coffee. All of the these new tenants are helping to create a major buzz on Seneca Street, in a commercial district that has seen much disinvestment in the past.
The new marquee is a historical replica of the original that graced the main entrance of Michael Shea’s former movie house for decades. The replica was built by Buffalo’s own Flexlume Sign Company, the same company that built the original back in the 1920s.
The new café element is the icing on the cake, and the newly restored marquees acts as the brilliantly lit candles. Public’s owners James Rayburg and Sam Scarcello. Both Rayburg and Scarcello grew up in South Buffalo, so this opening marks a wonderful return for the two entrepreneurs. Actually, the business partners have been setting up at the South Buffalo Farmer’s market down the street in Cazenovia Park for the last few years. That experience is one of the triggers that led to investing in their latest retail adventure.
“I recall walking into the very storefront Public Espresso now occupies with my Mom when it was a Five & Dime years ago to pick up back to school supplies,” said Rayburg. “Being able to give back to the neighborhood and be part of Seneca Street’s renaissance is something that is close to both our hearts. We grew up here, our families still live in South Buffalo, and it’s what drew us to this transformative project.”
“The restoration of this building was a group effort and the list of those who contributed is long,” explained Schneider. “National Grid deserves special mention because the marquee is such an important symbol to the Seneca Street commercial corridor. Its return to Shea’s would not have happened without the National Grid Main Street grant. It’s that simple.”
Kujawa responded, “The meticulous work that Schneider Development has undertaken to research, design and re-build the space to honor the building’s history is truly remarkable. We’re grateful for the recognition and to have been part of the project.”