Like elsewhere, the pandemic is having a tremendous impact on downtown. Developers remain confident it remains a sound place to invest however, and the housing sector is leading the way. Of the thirteen projects currently under construction in the downtown area, 11 are residential or have residential components. Residential projects also account for 12 of the 19 projects announced in 2021. Fourteen projects of all types were completed last year. For comparison, in 2020, fifteen projects were completed, fifteen were under construction, and nineteen were announced.
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Below is a recap of the development activity that occurred in the downtown area in 2021.
Developers believe that the appetite for downtown living will continue. Last year ten downtown area residential projects were completed bringing 429 units online. That was down from last year’s 669 units but the number of units underway is an impressive 948 spread across 11 projects.
Completed. The largest project completed last year was Ciminelli Real Estate’s 201 Ellicott Street. The eight-story building with 201 affordable apartments filled a large surface parking lot between the library and the Metropolitan transportation Center. The project’s Braymiller Market also brings a much-needed fresh food source to downtown.
Douglas Jemal quickly converted the former Buffalo Police headquarters at Church and Franklin streets to apartments. The building was remodeled and slightly expanded to include 114 apartments and indoor parking.
Campus West, a four-story, 48-unit apartment building at the southeast corner of Maryland and West streets was completed by Anthony LoRusso. Greenleaf Properties finished 19 new apartments in the former Hyatt’s Art store located at 910 Main Street. The project is adjacent to the Bosche Lofts project Greanleaf undertook at 916-918 Main Street that includes 23 apartments and commercial space.
At the eastern edge of downtown, a group of investors, led by architect Steven J. Carmina and developer Roger Trettel, opened Nash Lofts at the southeast corner of Broadway and Michigan Avenue. The project consists of 18 mixed-income apartments, office and retail space.
Ellicott Development converted the upper levels of 479 Main Street, the former Hens & Kelly Department Store, into 15 apartments. Ellicott also completed two projects along Michigan Avenue with six units on the upper three levels of 270 Michigan and three units in a mixed-use building that houses Tim Hortons at 474 Michigan.
In Waterfront Village, Ciminelli Real Estate finished eight townhouses in The West End project. The largest unit in the project with 3,527 sq.ft. of space and closest to Erie Basin Marina, sold in July for $1.369 million. Twelve additional units are planned.
Schneider Development added six condominiums to the Warehouse Lofts building at 210 Ellicott Street bringing the unit count there to 36. The units, all sold, were constructed in what was previously office space on the second floor.
Underway. There are nearly 1,000 units under construction. Downtown is now seeing larger projects with 100 or more units. Ten years ago, when the downtown residential market was unproven, a large project was 30 to 40 units. Today five of the eleven projects underway are over 100 units.
After a COVID pause, The Krog Group is restarting work on the Trico complex. Reuse plans have shifted during the delay. The project will now feature 243 apartments, up from 133, after plans for a hotel component were dropped. Also planned is commercial space and indoor parking for 250 cars. Work on the highly-visible project is expected to be complete late next year.
South of downtown, Generation Development Group is finishing work on the first phase of its Silo City project. The $65 million restoration and adaptive re-use of the circa-1906 American Mill & Warehouse building will include 168 residential units and commercial space.
Along Niagara Street, Norstar Development USA is constructing 166 affordable units in eight buildings at its Niagara Square Apartment development. It is being built on the site of demolished Shoreline Apartments.
Shortly after purchasing the Simon Electric properties, Douglas Development started gutting the Burns Building on W. Huron Street. It is the kick-off of a multi-phase effort to bring at least 450 units to the Simon sites. While plans for an addition to the east side of the Burns Building have not been submitted, we’re counting the 150 units proposed for the property as underway.
Work continues at 225 Louisiana Street in the Old First Ward where the Barcalo Living & Commerce project will bring a creative mix of space to the former Barcalo Manufacturing Company complex. Plans call for 116 apartments, 30,000 square feet of light commercial space, and residential indoor parking. The Frizlen Group is leading the effort.
A three-story senior housing complex is taking shape along Virginia Street. Hispanics United of Buffalo/Acacia, Inc.’s La Plaza at 254 Virginia Street between West and 10th Street will contain 46 one-bedroom units when complete.
Two projects are underway in the Theater District. Legacy Development is adding 21 apartments in the upper floors of the ornate Theater Place complex. On the same block, Drew Blum is creating four, full-floor apartments to the former Tent City Building at 674 Main Street. Two commercial spaces are planned for the first floor.
An apartment building on lower Niagara Street is being renovated by Cedarland Development. 507 Niagara will contain 16 apartments when work is complete. Ten units are nearly finished a block away from the Medical School in Allentown. Huamei Wang is developing a building at 15 Allen Street that features a reconstructed façade. Along Michigan Avenue, Stephen Development is working on conversion of 151 E. Eagle to residences. Eight two-story units are planned for the site.
Proposed. The residential market does not look like it is slowing down anytime soon. Of the 19 projects announced last year, 12 were residential projects with a total of 1,346 units. The largest is a whopping 334 units Douglas Development is planning for the upper floors of the Statler. Douglas Development also is planning 400 units on the Simon Electric properties it purchased along the Ellicott Street corridor. Besides the 150 units at the Burns Building site mentioned above, 250 units are planned along the east side of Ellicott Street north of E. Huron Street.
BFC Partners along with Oak -Michigan HDFC, Inc., the owner of McCarley Gardens, are teaming up for significant changes to the residential community at the southern edge of the Medical Campus. An existing 135 units will be renovated, 15 new two-story units will be built throughout the site, and a six-story, 212-unit mixed-use building is planned for the corner of Virginia and Ellicott streets.
The Salvation Army is working with neighbors on plans to redevelop its Main Street campus. The social services organization is planning to expand its services and housing units on property it owns at 960-970 Main Street. Plans call for townhouses along N. Pearl Street, a new emergency shelter, and a seven-story building along Main Street with 160 units.
Generation Development Group unveiled plans to convert a second structure at Silo City. Ninety-two residential units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space are planned for the Perot Malthouse. This phase of the Silo City project will include site greenspace and waterfront accessibility improvements.
Across the Buffalo River, Carubba & Company is teaming up Elev8 Architecture and Utah-based developer J.B. Earl Company to construct The Riv. The multi-phased, multi-building residential project with 85 units would be built at the corner of South and Hamburg streets, adjacent to Mutual Waterfront Park.
At the western edge of the Larkin District, Frontier Industrial Corp’s Swan Street Railyard LLC is working with Lazarus Industries on a project that would include ground floor commercial space and 58 apartments. The ‘L’-shaped building with a one-story wing would join a cluster of mixed-use projects that includes AP Lofts at Larkinville, 500 Seneca and Seneca Street Lofts at 550 Seneca.
Gold Wynn Residential is working on plans to convert part of the ACB Building on Niagara Square to residences. Up to 50 apartments are planned.
Douglas Development dusted off and revised plans for an addition to the One Seneca complex. A three-story addition is proposed for one of the completed retail buildings on the eastern side of the complex’s plaza. The addition would bring 33 new apartments to the mixed-use development.
One of downtown’s most ornate buildings has a residential future. Priam Enterprises is proposing to convert the Dun Building’s upper floors into 23 upscale apartment units. The first floor and garden levels would remain commercial space.
In Allentown, Ellicott Development and Avalon Development are proposing to repurpose 138 Allen Street and 71 Park Street. A mix of 4,300 sq.ft. of commercial space and 22 market-rate apartments are proposed for the former P.L.U.M. Works buildings. Closer to Main Street, E2I Ventures is proposing a three-story addition to the rear of the 46 Allen. Four apartments are planned plus upgrades to the existing historic building.
Norstar Development proposed a three-building project at Michigan Avenue and Eagle Street. Plans have been released for two four-unit townhouse buildings along Eagle Street. Norstar is also planning a three-story building with an undisclosed number of units fronting Michigan Avenue.
COVID’s impact on downtown office space remains question mark. Many downtown offices remain empty or at reduced staff as home working continues at many companies. In the meantime, downtown office space development remains tepid. New projects are lease driven and new office space brought online is typically a small component of a larger mixed-use project.
Ellicott Development completed three projects with office space last year including the Hens & Kelly renovation at 478 Main Street, renovations to a commercial building at 303 South Park Avenue, and reuse of 270 Michigan with three floors of office space.
BestSelf Behavior Health is consolidating its admin functions on the Medical Campus. The health provider has a deal to purchase 899 Main Street from Uniland Development with plans to add a third floor to the building. Nearby, The Krog Group will be bringing 70,000 sq.ft. of office space to the Trico complex.
Crux Wealth Advisors, a California-based wealth management firm, purchased the William Dorsheimer House at 434 Delaware for $1.09 million in late February. The mansion with 9,536 sq.ft. of space will be renovated. At 300 Niagara Street, Neighborhood Health Center is adding 15,925 sq.ft. to its medical clinic.
A nondescript building sandwiched between Main Place Mall and the Liberty Building was upgraded. Owner New Wave Energy completed façade renovations to the five-story building at 410 Main Street that it purchased in May 2018.
One of the more encouraging trends has been the office to residential conversions. These projects, such as at the ACB Building, the Dun Building, Glenny Building, 298 Main Street, and the Marin at Main and Seneca Street, are decreasing the supply of Class B and C office space, the oldest space with weakest demand.
A few tech firms committed to downtown last year. HiOperator took two floors in the Roblin Building. At Seneca One, AML RightSource signed on for 20,000 sq.ft. of space and PCI Associates took 11,000 sq.ft. Hunt Real Estate brought Hunt Mortgage downtown taking 10,000 sq.ft. in the Brisbane Building.
Serendipity Labs is opening a second downtown location in 21,000 sq.ft. of space in Fountain Plaza. WSP Engineering expanded from 6,000 sq.ft. of space to 17,000 sq.ft. in Waterfront Village Center.
Two rehab projects have office space components. Ellicott Development’s renovation of the Hens & Kelly building will include three floors of office space along with retail space and apartments. The U.S. Social Security Administration has leased 15,000 sq.ft. of space on the second floor of the building.
While the lodging industry has taken a big hit by the pandemic, Douglas Jemal has confidence in the downtown hotel market. Jemal’s Douglas Development purchased the Hyatt last year after the Snyder Corp. defaulted on its mortgage. Renovations have already begun.
Jemal unveiled plans to bring back hotel rooms back to the Statler. Three of the tower floors will contain 183 hotel rooms. Next door, Jemal was the high-bidder for the Mahoney State Office Building and his early plan is to create a boutique hotel with 60 rooms.
Despite a December fire, owner Harry Stinson is committed to renovating the former Adam’s Mark hotel. After renaming the property Buffalo Grand, he recently announced that the hotel will become the Buffalo Ramada.
As expected, plans for other hotels downtown have been put on pause. The extended-stay hotel proposed for the Trico complex was shelved. Ellicott Development has not moved forward with plans for an Element Hotel near the Medical Campus and Benderson Development’s plans for a hotel at Main and Scott Street is stuck in neutral.
With plans for a new convention center sidelined, Erie County is upgrading the existing center’s lobby and ballroom. The County will also be spending $6.1 million to add a new façade along Franklin Street.
In May, the Buffalo Heritage Carousel opened at Canalside. Along the African American Heritage Corridor, the Michigan Street Baptist Church at 511 Michigan Avenue will be getting structural repairs to the roof and walls plus an addition on the north side of the building.
Eastman Machine received approvals to construct a 7,392 sq.ft. addition to its current facility on Washington Street. The Seneca Nation opened the new Seneca One Stop at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Perry Street, across from the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, last week.
There were several big downtown property sales in 2021. Douglas Jemal remains on a tear. He purchased the Hyatt and the Simon Electric properties last year. He also was the high bidder for the Mahoney State Office Building and is purchasing long-vacant 529 Main Street across from the Hyatt and plans for retail and residential space in the building. Early this year, Jemal expects to purchase a surface parking lot at 61 Terrace from the City where he’s planning a residential and parking project.
In May, the estate of Mark Croce sold 505 Pearl Street for $1.3 million. The buyer, an LLC, has not announced plans for the vacant, six-story building. In December, Vesta Corporation bought the Touraine Apartment building at 274 Delaware for $9 million.
A one-story building across from the casino was sold in December. Acquest Development’s 106 Stadium Parking LLC paid $650,000 for the 106 Michigan Avenue property. Plans for the site have not been released.
If the economy holds, 2022 should be a year of significant changes downtown. The residential market remains hot. With a significant number of units in the planning stages, it will be interesting to see how many new projects are announced. As the number of building renovation candidates dwindles, the future for downtown residential is ground-up construction- good news for infilling.
We’ll be watching to see which of the three finalists gets selected by the City to redevelop the Mohawk Ramp site. Three talked-about projects should come into focus this year. Gold Wynn is eyeing a parking lot at Washington and E. Mohawk Street for a mid-rise residential building. Ellicott Development has talked about a new building along Ohio Street combining apartments and condominiums. Legacy Development is refining plans for the Alder properties it purchased along Oak and Ellicott Streets north of Genesee Street.
We will also be rooting for action at two prime properties along Main Street. Ownership issues have delayed an office and residential project in the AM&As building. Across the street, Main Liberty Group has plans to revamp the Main Place Mall but needs a large anchor tenant to kick-off that work.
The Marine Drive Apartments are in line for a make-over. Last year, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority finalized terms and signed an initial agreement with a team comprised of The Habitat Company and Duvernay + Brooks for the project. We should get a glimpse of what “revitalization and redevelopment” means for the 616-unit public housing development.
Thanks to all of the developers and investors both large and small that keep us busy at Buffalo Rising year round. Apologies to anyone overlooked in this recap.