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Downtown Development Recap – 2022 Edition

It was an off year for downtown development with only a handful of projects completed. 2023 is more promising with several large projects under construction that will come online this year. Despite uncertainty over the direction of the national and regional economies and any long-term effects on downtown post-Covid, projects are getting announced and properties are being sold.

Last year, just seven projects were completed, seventeen projects were under construction and twelve projects were announced. Activity has been fairly steady. In 2021, fourteen projects were completed, thirteen projects were under construction and nineteen projects were announced. In 2020, fifteen projects were completed, fifteen were under construction, and nineteen were announced.

Map PDF: here

Below is a recap of the development activity that occurred in the downtown area in 2022.

Residential

Completed. Six residential projects with 255 units were completed last year. Norstar USA is finishing up the final units at its Niagara Square project. The 166 affordable apartment and townhouse units were constructed on the site of the demolished Shoreline Apartment complex along Niagara Street. Nearby, Hispanics United of Buffalo/Acacia, Inc.’s three-story La Plaza at 254 Virginia Street between West and 10th Street has 46 one-bedroom senior apartments with community and commercial space on the ground floor.

In the Theater District, Legacy Development finished 21 apartments in Theater Place and Drew Blum created four large apartments in the upper floors of the Tent City Building at 674 Main Street, Wurlitzer Flats.

Huamei Wang completed ten apartments and commercial space at 15 Allen Street.  Designed by Adam Sokol, the mixed-use project includes portions of the front façade from a two-story building that stood on the property. Stephen Development’s conversion of 151 E. Eagle was finished as well.  Eight loft apartments were created in the 10,900 sq.ft. building that is adjacent to the AC Lofts complex.

Underway. Of the seventeen projects under construction downtown, ten of them are residential or have residential components and half of those have over 100 units.  In fact, there may be more residential units being built downtown, 1,225, than at any time since downtown residential took off 20 years ago.

Three projects have over 200 units each.  The largest is the 334 units Douglas Jemal is putting in the Statler. At the southern edge of the Medical Campus, Krog Corp. is converting most of the Trico complex into 243 apartments. North of the medical campus, SAA|EVI is constructing 230 senior and affordable apartments in a two-building development on the eastern portions of the Pilgrim Village site.

Two large projects are underway in and near the Old First Ward.  The largest, the first phase of the Silo City project, includes 168 apartments and commercial space in the American Mill & Warehouse building. New Generation Development has plans for additional development on the site.  At 225 Louisiana Street, the Frizlen Group and BRD Construction are transforming the Barcalo Manufacturing Company complex into 116 apartments and 30,000 sq.ft. of commercial space.

At Canalside, Sinatra & Company is building Heritage Point that includes 61 apartments, office, and retail space.  Cedarland Development has two projects underway, the 35-unit Michigan Place building at Michigan and Best Street and 507 Niagara Street which includes 16 apartments.

Ellicott Development and Avalon Development are creating 22 apartments at 138 Allen Street. BFC Partners is renovating the 135-unit McCarley Gardens townhouse complex near the Medical Campus while adding 15 new units. A second phase that would include an apartment building on Ellicott Street is in the works.

Proposed. Seven residential projects were announced last year with a combined 546 units.  Douglas Jemal is responsible for two of them.  In December, Jemal purchased the HSBC Atrium building and adjacent parking lot for $9 million.  Though plans are still being drawn, Jemal envisions converting the building into 200 to 225 apartments and long-term, construct a parking ramp behind it to free up land for additional development. 

In February, Jemal was named designated developer for the City’s Mohawk Ramp.  His winning proposal calls for a phased approach to reusing the site and is tied to his larger plan to redevelop the nearby Simon Electric properties with 400 residential units. The parking ramp would gain retail space and four floors of apartments with 200 units.

At 515 Delaware Avenue, LCB Capital LLC is planning a five-story, 40-unit apartment building. The project underwent several design iterations in order to gain City approvals.  A two-story building at 505 Delaware would also be renovated and include four apartments.

SAA|EVI is proposing a follow-up project to its The Forge project on Broadway.  Twenty-three, three-story townhouses are planned along Sycamore Street north of the existing apartment building.

On Main Street, Nick Giammusso is formulating plans to add two floors and eight apartments to the single-story building at 505 Main.  Nearby, Iskalo Development is prepping the Old Editions Book Store on E. Huron Street for commercial space and six apartments.

In May, Priam Enterprises announced plans for convert the 36 apartments in The Glenny at 251 Main Street to condominiums. Priam renovated the ornate, five-story, circa-1873 building in 2016 for residential use. Timing and pricing has not been set.

Office

The downtown office market has been quiet as companies sort through whether work-from-home is here to stay and what that means for their office space needs.  One large chunk of office space is in the works – 60,000 sq.ft. of space in the Trico complex.

Douglas Jemal purchased 368 Sycamore Street in March and landed a tenant in August.  Bitwise Industries, the tech industry training company, has agreed to occupy the 32,698 sq.ft. building.  At 300 Niagara Street, Neighborhood Health Center is constructing a two-story, 15,925 sq.ft. addition to its medical clinic.

Preservation Buffalo Niagara is working on plans to renovate 72 Sycamore Street for its new offices. The circa-1848 building will also house Heart of the City Neighborhoods.  A second phase of the project would include an addition to the building.

In the African American Heritage Corridor, work is underway to renovate and expand 509 Michigan Avenue as the future home of Vision Multi Media Group. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is planning a four-story office building on Canalside’s North Block. The Canalside Gateway Building will include office space, a visitor information area, public restrooms, and storage space.

Non-profit organization Hope Rising Together is converting the Spencer Kellogg & Sons Inc. complex at 395 Ganson Street into its new headquarters.  The group serves the underprivileged in the Buffalo area and in Sierra Leone in West Africa. 

Office Leasing.The biggest lease penned last year was for 44,480 sq.ft. by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in a move from 70 Michigan to 700 Delaware Avenue in Allentown. Top Seedz took 35,000 sq.ft. of space in Iskalo Development’s 101 Oak Street for office and production space. M&T Bank took an additional 32,000 sq.ft. of space in Lafayette Court. Buffalo BioDiesel purchased 17 Court Street and will move its headquarters into 20,000 sq.ft. of the building’s space.

Two technology firms moved into new space downtown.  Centivo took 9,000 sq.ft. on the fifth floor of the Gateway Building and Kangarootime took 8,384 sq.ft. of space at 301 Ohio Street.

Hotel

It was a relatively quiet year in the hotel sector besides big plays by Douglas Jemal.  He is currently renovating the Hyatt including changes to the hotel’s atrium along Main Street and conversion of the former Morton’s restaurant into Bull + Buffalo steakhouse.

Nearby, Jemal is planning 183 hotel rooms on three floors of the Statler and conversion of the Mahoney office building into a 60-room boutique hotel.  Jemal also purchased the Mansion of Delaware in November for $3 million.

A year after a December 2021 fire, the Buffalo Grand hotel remains closed.  Harry Stinson still has plans to convert the former Adam’s Mark hotel into a Ramada.

Other Projects

With plans for a new convention center sidelined, Erie County is upgrading the existing center’s lobby and ballroom and is adding a new façade along Franklin Street. Club Marcella’s relocated to 106 Michigan Avenue, an Acquest Development property across from the casino in the Cobblestone District.  Club Marcella had been located in Theater Place since 1995.

Rocco Termini and Earl Ketry are planning a 3,000 square foot second-floor patio on the south side of The Lafayette. Tempo at 581 Delaware is proposing façade enhancements including new windows and a new wood and metal porch on the circa-1878 structure.

Work started on an expansion of the Colored Musicians Club at 145 Broadway. The project includes restoration of the building storefront, an addition to the south that will improve access, parking lot improvements, and renovations to the building’s second floor.

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has started work on a community health center on Michigan Avenue across from its campus.  The project involves renovations to an existing Roswell-owned house at 917 Michigan, construction of a modern addition, an outdoor garden, and parking lot off Virginia Street.

Big Deals

Douglas Jemal had a busy year buying buildings both large and small throughout downtown and elsewhere for that matter. Here’s what Jemal purchased downtown:

Surrounding downtown, in March Jemal purchased 368 Sycamore for $615,000 and the Butler Mansion in December for $3.75 million. It all, the purchases totaled $25.5 million.

In March, the Ansonia Center at 716 Main Street was purchased for $5 million. The building opened in 1985 and contains 59 apartments and 17,000 sq.ft. of commercial space. One block south, Anthony Trusso purchased the Pierce Building at 653 Main for $1.4 million. The building contains four apartments and commercial space.

Buffalo Biodiesel purchased the seven-story, 49,450 sq.ft. office building at 17 Court Street in July for $3.2 million. The Buffalo News is moving its offices from its long-time home on Washington Street to the Larkin District. Uniland Development has a deal to purchase the building from News’ owner Lee Enterprises and redevelop the building for one or more users with one or more uses.

Chris Jacobs bought the three-story building at 743 Main Street for $1.2 million in December. Jacobs has renovated a number of buildings on the block with a mix of residential but mostly commercial space. Also in December, the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission acquired 136-146 Broadway and adjoining properties for their new headquarters and visitor center.

Looking Ahead

2023 is shaping up to be an interesting year for downtown. The residential market will be tested with over 1,000 residential units coming online.  Douglas Jemal has a lengthy list of projects including finishing redevelopment of the Statler, reuse of the Simon Electric properties, a new building at 61 Terrace, developing plans for the Century Lot at E. Mohawk and Washington streets, and reuse of the HSBC Atrium building.

ECHDC is expected to review proposals for the Aud Block parcels at Canalside. We may also finally see Benderson’s plans for a site at Main and Scott streets. After getting interest but no proposals for redevelopment of the Broadway Barns site, the City is going to be trying again, this time with financial incentives.

We are also watching for resolution of ownership issues that 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 still needs a large anchor tenant to kick-off that work.

Renovation plans for two downtown housing projects could get traction this year.  The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is working with a team comprised of The Habitat Company and Duvernay + Brooks to revitalize the Marine Drive Apartments. The Housing Authority is also going to be seeking a development partner for redevelopment of the Perry Homes site east of the Cobblestone District.

A few significant Medical Campus projects are in the works including redevelopment of the Salvation Army properties on Main Street. Ellicott Development is drafting plans for a residential project at Main and Summer streets. We may also hear more details about the long-range plan to relocate the VA Hospital to the Campus. BestSelf Behavior Health is consolidating its admin functions at 899 Main Street, adding a third floor to the building it bought from Uniland Development.

Thank you 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.

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