Driven by grant money and private investment, development along Buffalo’s Main Street and downtown core continues to move forward, with projects in various stages of completion.
This spring, residents and visitors of the city can look forward to a more walkable downtown, with improved streetscaping and changes planned for greenspaces and park areas connecting Main Street to the waterfront.
“Main Street has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go,” Buffalo Place Inc. Executive Director Michael T. Schmand said.
Schmand said that a new movie theater, hotels, coffee shops, and restaurant sites are either in the process of being completed or successfully operating already in Buffalo’s downtown.
Buffalo Place Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that works closely with the City of Buffalo and local developers to administer grant money and facilitate projects along Main, Washington, and Pearl streets to the Buffalo waterfront. With a budget of $2.3 million, its constituent properties include One Seneca Tower, M&T Plaza, and much of the downtown core.
Schmand said that work done in the 500 block of Main Street in the last four years is particularly encouraging. Asbestos removal at the former AM&A’s location on Main is nearly completed, which will be the site of a 340-room Wyndham Hotel, part of a $70 million makeover for the building.
Investment in the block will also include a new restaurant, bars, retail shopping, and coffee shops.
Schmand said that projects will eventually open Main Street to car traffic all the way to the foot of Main Street. Seneca One will see a full construction season this spring and summer. He credited Douglas Jemal’s work at Seneca One, where the investor hopes to reintroduce retail space to that end of Main Street.
The Starbucks in Buffalo’s Hyatt Regency in Fountain Plaza is exceeding projected customer volume, Schmand said, and Ciminelli Real Estate is moving its headquarters from Williamsville to 50 Fountain Plaza.
“I remember when we had to battle the suburbs,” Schmand said. “As an organization, as a city, and as a community, we realized we have to work together.”
With the growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine, demand is high for the many townhouses and apartments nearing completion or in planning downtown. And with that will come opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to start a restaurant, open a shop, or locate their business near a surge of skilled workers. Many of those apartments are pre-rented, Schmand added.
Schmand credited many of the developers and property owners for the investment they’re making in these projects. Developers on the Buffalo Place board include Steven Carmina, Carl Paladino, and Rocco Termini, all of whom Schmand credited by name.
He also listed a Market Arcade film and art center theater, and pointed to the rise in foot traffic in the Theater District on Main Street, which includes seven theaters. Foot traffic last summer was up by about 27 percent, Schmand said.
Challenges in the future will continue to be the need for parking and access, as well as how to smartly maintain green space, linking Buffalo’s parks to the waterfront.
Working with the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, planning sessions are in the works for improving the gateway to the waterfront, which includes improvements to Five Flags, Cathedral, and Fireman’s parks.
Buffalo Place also manages the Downtown Country Market farmers’ market, Rotary Rink, and Queen City Social.
“We always look at Buffalo Place as a keeper of the vision for Main Street and downtown,” Schmand said. “We work for the people invested in Main Street.”