Downtown Development Recap: 2012 Edition

Busy developers make for a crowded map.  Over two dozen downtown area projects were finished, announced or under construction last year.  Eight projects were finished, ten were unveiled, and 11 were under construction as the year came to a close.  The lengthy list does not include projects in the growing Medical Campus or Larkin District. 
The largest project completed last year was the redevelopment of the Lafayette Hotel by Rocco Termini.  The historic building is now a mix of restaurants, banquet facilities, retail shops, 57 hotel rooms and residences.  With 115 upper floor apartments, it is the largest residential project completed downtown since Elk Terminal Lofts kicked-off a loft boomlet over a decade ago.


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Other projects completed last year include the expansion of the Buffalo Transporation Pierce Arrow Museum on Seneca Street, the renovation of the Calumet Building on Chippewa, the conversion of the Webb Building from residential lofts to hotel rooms, and three projects in the critical 500 Block of Main Street.
Several significant projects are currently under construction.  The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino is finally underway.  Nearby, the Donovan Building is getting a new façade and a mix of retail, hotel and office space courtesy of Benderson Development.  Across the street, work is underway on the public canals on the Aud Block at Canalside.  
Work began on two long-awaited projects last year.  In the Theater District, crews are revamping Main Street between Chippewa and Tupper streets to return car traffic to the block.  Ellicott Development is at work to bring 42 apartments to the Graystone Hotel, a vacant historic building on S. Johnson Park.
Last year saw the Sabres organization designated developer of the City-owned Webster Block at the foot of Main Street.  Work on HARBORCenter is expected to start in the spring.  The $123 million project calls for two new ice rinks, a 200-room hotel, parking ramp and retail and restaurant space.  
The Elm-Oak corridor promises to be a hotbed of activity this year.  Five projects were announced for this eastern edge of downtown in 2012.  Uniland Development will begin construction of a six-story, 140,000 sq.ft. administrative center for Catholic Health at the corner of Genesee and Oak streets in the spring.
Elsewhere in the corridor, Jake Schneider announced plans to renovate two historic Swan Street properties into The Hub, a mix of commercial space and 50 loft apartments.  A block away, Roger Trettel purchased the Gutman Building and is exploring a mix of uses for the five-story building at Elm and S. Division streets.  At 141 Elm Street, TM Montante Development is planning 25 apartments for the Hager Mills property.
Dino BBQ’s stealthy search for a Buffalo location came to an end last year.  Mark Croce landed the coveted restaurant for a property he owns at 301 Franklin Street.  The 7,200 sq.ft. restaurant will seat 180 diners and has already created interested in what some are calling ‘restaurant row.’  
The uncertainty over HSBC’s occupancy at One HSBC Center was settled last year and it was not good news for owner Seneca One Realty.  The global financial firm will be vacating over 600,000 sq.ft. of space in the tower when its lease expires later this year.  Employees will be split between the HSBC Atrium building on Washington Street and Walden Avenue in Depew.  Seneca One and downtown is now faced with a tower that will be soon be 90 percent vacant.  The owner is exploring converting the building’s upper floors into hotel and residential space.  
Seneca One was not the only owner with bad news last year.  The AM&A’s Department Store’s owner, New Horizon Acquisitions, lost a potential buyer/redeveloper when Rocco Termini decided not to pursue a mixed-use project in the vacant building.  
One nearly-vacant building got a new owner as the year drew to a close.  Hamister Group finalized its purchase of the Tishman Building on Lafayette Square.  Hamister is planning a Hilton Garden Inn, apartments and space for its corporate offices in the building.  Work is expected to start in the spring.

About the author  ⁄ WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

42 comments
whatever
whatever

Thanks, Paul. Another thing is Rochester's city poverty rate has been slightly higher than Buffalo's for a few years. Latest the Census bureau says it's 31% there vs 30% here.

Considering that higher poverty rate there plus slightly more job losses over 5 & 10 years, if they asked Cuomo why their similarly populated area isn't getting a 'billion' from NYS like Buffalo is, it would be a good question.

(admission - I think I mentioned that poverty rate last year too, so very sorry to real for yet again repeating something. There goes one of my 2013 resolutions!)

whatever
whatever

Funny, no matter what I ask mine, she just starts complaining about sprawl.

I'm wondering if the Apple Store resold me a customized one some Chicagoan traded in last time he visited back here, lol

Anyway, sounds like your Siri needs some fixes too…

Maybe nobody told her govt spending on publicly owned (if she knows what that means!) roads/sidewalks in dense urban areas can be very appropriate, just like it can also be anywhere else taxpayers drive.

She can consider basing it on traffic amounts, local-govt funding, etc, instead of moralizing bias against choices people are free to make.

As for other stuff, you can try reminding her - believe it or not - a discussion's context affects relevance of those. If she's like her owner, it won't sink in -shrug- but you can try!

"Realist"
"Realist"

That's odd, I was just about to say my version of siri has been sounding a lot more like whatever.

When I ask my phone about historic tax credits, she asks if I mean to say job killing, average working family crushing corporate welfare?

When I ask about sprawl subsidies she says government spending isn't a subsidy as long as it goes toward sprawl.

When I correct her, she changes the subject to something about the Lake Effect man, Democrats, Hollywood liberals, all while repeating "shrug" and "lol."

Strange.

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

I don't disagree with you about Rochester. I think you provided a lot of info in your reply to enforce your point. (And you thought I was being snarky.)

whatever
whatever

ok Paul, but you've been noting that on here about me for so long now, I'd bet it predates Siri's first beta - lol

It's fine to rerun the classics of course, but for 2013 how about thinking up at least a few new ad hominem critiques of me?

More variety all around might be good on here :-)

(same also goes for the other member of my fan club - the local one

…but at least from him we get to see a variety of usernames and sometimes a new persona)

But seriously, it's becoming a pet peeve of mine when people say how much better Rochester is supposedly doing that Buffalo without giving any substance. Perhaps in some ways it really is. If there's ways of looking at it different from what I wrote, that could be interesting. I just thought what elmdog wrote before looked like a cliche at this point.

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

You're becoming BRO's own version of Siri. I'm going to do all my searches on BRO from now on so you can provide the results.

whatever
whatever

Wow, I disagree with a lot of that…

elmdog>"until we get a large corporation to committ to downtown buffalo and or surrounding areas the city will do exactly what it has done for the past 50 years"

Why do you say it's a must-have it have to attract a "large corporation"?

I've nothing at all against large corporations, but what matters is the jobs not organization size - so what's the big difference if they come from mid-sized or small corporations?

elm>"Please tell me of a Buffalo Homegrown company that has grown so much that we can be really proud of it...MOOG....thats it."

I won't tell you what to be proud of or not, but if you think Moog is the only large homegrown company in WNY then I'd wonder why none of the following count to you?

M&T, First Niagara, New Era, Rich Products, Delaware North, Calspan, Tops Markets

There's also homegrown co's which grew here then were bought by larger co's but still have major presence here - such as HSBC, Dunlop Tire, Fisher Price, Ingram Micro

elm>"Rochester seems to create jobs, white collar good paying jobs with alot less attractions."

"Seems to", according to what?

On quick glance at Bureau of Labor Stats website, it looks to me that Buffalo & Rochester are very, very close in metro area job losses over the past decade.

2012 data isn't posted there yet, but over 10 years from 2002 through 2011, metro Buffalo fell from around 548,000 jobs to 525,000 while metro Rochester fell from 503,000 to 481,000.

That's a drop of 4.19% for Buffalo vs. a drop of 4.37% for Rochester.

So if anything, Buffalo's job losses were not quite as bad as in Roch over 10 years.

Over 5-years from 2007 to 2011, it's similar:

metro Buffalo fell from 549,000 jobs to 525,000, and Rochester from 504,000 jobs to 481,000.

If I figured right, that's a drop of 4.37% for Buffalo and 4.56% in Rochester.

Again, if anything the job numbers are a little worse in Roch for 5 years, although it's very close.

Here's the website if you want to look at different time frames.

First choose NY state, then it gives a list of metro areas to select from

http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?la

whatever
whatever

In raw numbers of visitors, no doubt you're right Buffalo trumps Hamburg.

But I meant relative to population, the per capita visitor difference might not be much of a trumping if any… considering Buffalo/city has over 4x as many residents.

The fair draws over a million, not much less than sum of Sabres+Bisons (around 750k+515k, respectively).

Based on its # of slot machines being close to what the Seneca's new casino will have, the Hamburg casino might draw a similar # of visitors as the Senecas will in the city.

In addition to beach, events at fairgrounds and other stuff in my previous comment, Hamburg's amount of national retail probably draws many visitors from South Buff & across southern Erie Co - including McKinley Mall having over 100 stores. It's the only major mall in the county south of Buffalo, and surrounded by other strip plazas and Wegmans, Walmart, etc.

Anyhow, I wouldn't be surprised if it at least comes close to 1/4th of how many WNY visitors Buffalo attracts. That would be proportionate to the pop difference.

elmdog
elmdog

There has to be a reality check here somewhere...until we get a large corporation to committ to downtown buffalo and or surrounding areas the city will do exactly what it has done for the past 50 years....Fall, decrease and continue to hope for jobs...All of the infrastructure is nice to see after all of these years but we dont have anything to show for it...For some reason Buffalo Metro, even with all of the institutions around cant seem to grown a large business from the ground up(employee and pay wise) and cant attract one from out of town...Governor Cuomo is advertising a BILLION dollars for Buffalo and all that has happened is a commitment from an Albandy firm to bring 35 jobs.....Something is fundamentally wrong here...Greatbatch is leaving, Smartpill(althought no big loss), HSBC, manufacturing in Dunkirk leaving..we dealt with the bad economy and did okay but we are not coming out of it like other cities, we are stalled just like normal....I read an article about a city with an incentive package to google to build and create 2000 jobs..the incentive wasnt more than 75 million...W

Until we get real leadership, and by real leadership I mean city hall and the idiots who run our govt we wont see any changes.....Please tell me of a Buffalo Homegrown company that has grown so much that we can be really proud of it...MOOG....thats it...Rochester seems to create jobs, white collar good paying jobs with alot less attractions...I could go on and on...

JSmith
JSmith

They used to have a titillating banner on the building that said, "Sleep with Austin for a month, fall in love for a lifetime" or something like that.

I thought it was a mattress company!

elmdog
elmdog

There has to be a reality check here somewhere...until we get a large corporation to committ to downtown buffalo and or surrounding areas the city will do exactly what it has done for the past 50 years....Fall, decrease and continue to hope for jobs...All of the infrastructure is nice to see after all of these years but we dont have anything to show for it...For some reason Buffalo Metro, even with all of the institutions around cant seem to grown a large business from the ground up(employee and pay wise) and cant attract one from out of town...Governor Cuomo is advertising a BILLION dollars for Buffalo and all that has happened is a commitment from an Albandy firm to bring 35 jobs.....Something is fundamentally wrong here...Greatbatch is leaving, Smartpill(althought no big loss), HSBC, manufacturing in Dunkirk leaving..we dealt with the bad economy and did okay but we are not coming out of it like other cities, we are stalled just like normal....I read an article about a city with an incentive package to google to build and create 2000 jobs..the incentive wasnt more than 75 million...W

Until we get real leadership, and by real leadership I mean city hall and the idiots who run our govt we wont see any changes.....Please tell me of a Buffalo Homegrown company that has grown so much that we can be really proud of it...MOOG....thats it...Rochester seems to create jobs, white collar good paying jobs with alot less attractions...I could go on and on...

emrotundo
emrotundo

What is happening with the horsefeathers building on Connecticut Street?

longgone
longgone

The market recap for the entire year includes one project with 3 townhomes and another project with just 2 apartments and you're asking about what happened to large scale projects?

Obvious just drove by you didn't....

The Boss
The Boss

That is Richard Taylor I believe, famous for attemting to bring upscale fasion to AM&A's about 10 years ago. His business is air purification systems, might be called Austin Air Systems

MikeN
MikeN

Does anyone know who and what is going on at the factory/warehouse building next to the 190S near Smith Street with the small plastic "Austin" signage?

It appears at minimum it has been outfitted with a significant amount of new windows.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

No doubt Hamburg brings in a ton of people, I grew up in Hamburg. But between Sabres, Bisons, and Bandit games, large festivals like the taste of Buffalo, the many museums within the city, the theatre district, large concert series, events at the First Niagara center, smaller concert venues, cruise ships and the Erie Basin Marina, the Zoo, and the convention center I'm pretty sure the numbers trump Hamburg by a long shot, even if we disclude nightlife.

whatever
whatever

paulsobo>"there are too many access ramps wasting too much taxable land to close to center city"

But already even within 1 or 2 miles of 'center city' (hmmm, Center District? Dan? lol)

... there's a lot of other taxable land parcels (and some taxable buildings) which have been sitting without enough market demand to motivate doing anything on (or in) them.

Paladino's Court St parcel, Croce's former Issa-owned City Tower parcel, many other parking lots, AM&A's (building or site if building is demoed eventually), several large unspoken-for parcels within Canalside, around half of Main St's 500-block still vacant, not to mention HSBC tower's upcoming more than half emptiness, same for the Statler, … on and on.

Considering all that, what's any reason other than wishful hopes to think the access ramp sites wouldn't just sit empty if many millions of public $ were spent to remove them?

whatever
whatever

I agree with some of what both elmdog and No_Illusions said, while questioning parts in both.

Like No_Illus said 'Also a lot of this money is private money, so you cannot complain if you think its being wasted.'

I wouldn't say 'cannot complain', since we're all free to complain about anything - but I agree with the concept that complaining about how others invest their own $ usually sounds unreasonable. Debating public spending is a separate issue, of course.

Where elmdog said it's 'pointless unless we can see jobs out of it',

...well okay, anything can seem 'pointless' to bystanders watching.

Still, to private investors (whether it's downtown or anywhere), one major point is to earn profit in the near term or long term. Clearly it isn't 'pointless' to everyone, even aside from job growth impacts.

I'm skeptical of No_Illus's estimate 'easily over 1000 new permanent jobs that did not exist before' - if that 1,000 is intended to mean new jobs in the region, not shifting jobs to downtown from elsewhere in the city or WNY. Also unclear if that means 1,000 full or part time jobs.

Senecas claim the new casino will grow their workforce by nearly 500 jobs. However - they don't say those would be full time, the 'nearly' is vague, and some of the total would result from shifting entertainment spending that would've happened anyway at other businesses in WNY or the city.

Likewise with new hotels for any portion of customers who'd otherwise stay in existing hotels on Delaware or in burbs, and the same for new restaurants (as elmdog noted) who'd otherwise eat at existing ones downtown, or in other parts of city, or WNY.

So if say 200 of the bigger casino's new jobs are due to spending which otherwise wouldn't happen in WNY (in other words, customers who'd otherwise still gamble but in Canada) … and if we count those as growth, that still leaves 800 to reach 1,000. Unless I'm overlooking something, that 800 looks high, not an 'easily over' number.

whatever
whatever

No_Illus>"Not many people travel to Hamburg for its nightlife, but throngs of people filter into the city for its cultural offerings."

Not mostly at night, true, although I'd wonder if visitors to Hamburg were added up, if it might not be much fewer than come to the city for Buffalo's cultural offerings. It can be argued Buffalo's culture attracts higher quality people than soulless things in burbs (that's a joke, Meliq) but in quantity maybe not far off from the population ratio of Buffalo to Hamburg. Maybe the 'not many' vs. 'throngs' isn't really as imbalanced as one might think.

Even aside from the county fair's over 1 million attendance, there's a quite a few year round who go to the fairgrounds in Hamburg to gamble at the govt-owned casino there, plus attendance at Buffalo Raceway there, plus other events it hosts (WNY Home&Garden show, dog shows, gun shows, outdoor sports expo, etc.)

Hamburg also has the dinosaur fossil nature place, a NY state beach, maybe a few restaurants & bars, ...

Cam33r4
Cam33r4

Let's hope this momentum continues on for years to come!

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

Well technically the metro area is made up of six cities. Obviously Buffalo and Niagara Falls for which it is named, but also Lackawanna, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, and Lockport(which is more of an exurb/commuter city, but still technically counts).

But I understand what you are saying.

And I agree, growth in the suburbs is growth for Buffalo itself. Not many people travel to Hamburg for its nightlife, but throngs of people filter into the city for its cultural offerings. But I will say that growth downtown strengthens the metro area more than growth in the suburbs.

5to81ALLDAY
5to81ALLDAY

Now its time to fill in those gaps with some 'teeth'. I Think Niagara Square is a huge step

elmdog
elmdog

Sounds good when you type it out but in my experience so far in Buffalo there are only so many people to handle a certain amount of restaurants in the city and you see alot of the new est. rise for a few years adding employees and the older die ...So these will bring temp laborers and restaurant jobs and new restaurants but unless it brings in significant outside of the city tourism and people it wont sustain the restaurants.....The restaurants will open and hopefully do really well...Or they open, do well for a few months, look dead 4 nights a week, short staff becaus there isnt the population to fill the rest. and quitely fate into a est. with crappy food and a few overworked employees...Without a hockey season we are seeing numbers of establishments getting killed .....

LouisTully
LouisTully

I really hope the Office Max or Depot or whatever at Hertel/Delaware is successful. It could be a good omen for retail in the city. I recall reading that retail outlets like this are looking to downsize. Places like Best Buy don't need 100,000 sf of space, so they are looking to do what the Office whatever did. a 30,000 sf big box store has a lot better chance of succeeding and impacting the city than the prospects of a full size retail outlet. Hey Wegmans, get on boards. Open a 60,000sf space downtown or nearby.

paulsobo
paulsobo

The perception of a metro area comes from its city.

Like it or not, Buffalo (and Lackwanna) paints Kenmore, Tonawanda, Amherst, Williamsville, Clarence, Lancaster, West Seneca, Hamburg, Blasdell, Orchard Park paint the entire metro area.

The more we bring out our architecture, our history, our culture, our transportation, business, quality of life in our downtown the more attractive the suburbs will become.

This is very good and it will go along way toward changing the negative (or atleast non-positive) labels and stereotypes accumulated over the years which have discouraged businesses and professionals from considering Buffalo.

zamedy
zamedy

What about Paladino's 50 Court and Croce's supposed new building for the parking lot at Chippewa and Pearl?

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

I think they wanted to just focus on downtown itself. 500 Seneca is off the map...though so is the Eire Freight House.

If anything they should have included the medical campus as well.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

Well besides the thousands of temporary construction jobs (Harbor Center alone will need 1500 laborers).

Between Harbor Center and the Casino is where most of the new jobs are being created. Include the new restaurants and hotels and we're looking at easily over 1000 new permanent jobs that did not exist before...or enough to put 1 out of every 250th person who lives in Buffalo to work, to put it into perspective.

And while yes job creation does matter, what might be more important are the residential builds, giving downtown a permanent consumer base, allowing for peripheral growth for the retail and services they need on an everyday basis.

But even the consolidation of Catholic Health is even very beneficial, especially considering many of those jobs are being transferred from the suburbs. These people need a place to eat on their lunch break, they need hotel space for out of town visitors. It doesn't create the region any new jobs, but it does put them downtown, stimulating other businesses.

Also a lot of this money is private money, so you cannot complain if you think its being wasted.

paulsobo
paulsobo

LouisTully, if Forest Lawn is 3mi from Niagara Square then that may be to far. Hey Im not Moses writing it in stone.

The point here is that there are to many access ramps wasting to much taxable land to close to center city.

Elm, Oak, Erie, Virginia...they are all too close.

Get rid of Elm Oak and move it out to jefferson and Hamburg.

Get rid of the skyway access ramp and use Virgina and Niagara.

We are paying taxes for all that land that is nothing but weeks for cars to get on and off.

Chris
Chris

This post is a recap not meant to address your question. See each projects posting (most have been covered over several posts on each development). WC does a great job of keeping us readers informed (many times scooping the other WNY publications) on these developments.

Keep up the great work WC! Here's to another year!

elmdog
elmdog

how many total jobs will be created because of all of this money being spent...its pointless unless we can see jobs out of it..........

Jim Kupczyk
Jim Kupczyk

WCP, thank you for your many contributions to Buffalo Rising!

millertime486
millertime486

All of these developments are great to hear! Has anymore information been releases about the Erie freight house. I know there was a holdup because some people wanted to save the structure. Are plans still moving forward with that!

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

It is a great update, and wonderful to see so many adaptive reuse projects. Here's to hoping that we add some of the larger projects--Trico, AM&A's, Bethlehem Steel--to the mix in 2013 (which would be aided by the larger tax incentives).

Also, here is to hoping that WNY architects, and clients, strive for better new designs....to complement the historic stock.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

Biggest & best recap yet. Vast majority of projects are adaptive reuse. There's something here for everyone.

Way to go, Buffalo!

LouisTully
LouisTully

Sometimes I read your comments and I'm almost misled into agreeing with you. Your comments almost sound good and almost make sense. Then you pull the crazy out and lose me:

"No access ramps within 3mi of centre city (Niagara Square)"

I used to live on Delaware by Forest Lawn. That's 3 miles from Niagara Square. You're saying that's the closest an access ramp should be to downtown?

I think you're a fantastic candidate for Mike Weekes cabinet.

Soccerdude5719
Soccerdude5719

Ketry wants to buy the materials and use them as part of the structure for his brewery. Not really rebuild it just recycling the stuff instead of it going to the dump. That sounds like a win-win to me since we get two things out of it.

The Boss
The Boss

Did you forget Savarino's 500 Seneca?

The Boss
The Boss

I am little confused on the Erie Freight House, it was once reported that Savarino wanted to tear it down to build apartments, then later heard something about Earl Ketry buying it to rebuild it as a brewery in a different location. What gives?

paulsobo
paulsobo

The 2 things that I see is the wasted land off the tax roles by the skyway access and the entire em-oak. Its insane the way those access rams are designed. That's all taxable land that we have to pay taxes to replace the land that isn't being taxed,

No access ramps within 3mi of centre city (Niagara Square)

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