Central Business District: Downtown takes new shape


Central Business District: Downtown takes new shape

By James Fink, Business First

October 18, 2013


These days, the welcome signs of bulldozers, cranes and backhoes can be found on many blocks in Buffalo’s central business district.

And no one is complaining.

Projects abound from the western downtown edge of Elmwood Avenue to the eastern boundary along the Elm-Oak Corridor. Some are traditional bricks and mortar, such as Uniland Development Co.’s $46 million Catholic Health headquarters on Genesee Street. Others are infrastructure-based, such as the “Cars Sharing Main Street” initiative or turning Pearl Street back into two-way traffic.

Combined, more than $1 billion in construction projects have been completed, are under construction or in the local economic development pipeline.

“I’ve been coming to Buffalo regularly since 1999 and I am finally seeing the signs of progress that we all hoped would have happened a long time ago,” said Sen. Charles Schumer.

The list is long and and diverse, including:

• Uniland proposed an $80 million, 515,000-square-foot office building and hotel at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street. The Class A space likely will be the new corporate headquarters for Delaware North Cos. The company may occupy as much as 150,000 square feet of the 12-story structure.

• The Hamister Group Inc. is working on a $40 million conversion of the 18-story Tishman Building that overlooks Lafayette Square. The building will house a 124-room Hilton Garden Inn, Hamister’s corporate offices and upscale apartments.

• Architect Steve Carmina bought a vacant building on Roosevelt Square and is renovating it into his private residence.

• Rocco Termini’s $46 million renovation of the Hotel @ The Lafayette has attracted national attention.

• The law firm of Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP bought and renovated the circa 1906 Calumet Building on Chippewa Street for its new headquarters.

• Cars Sharing Main Street has seen $31 million invested in the downtown core to bring lanes of vehicular traffic back to the Main Street spine. By fall 2014, the effort will have created traffic lanes from Tupper Street south to Mohawk Street.

“It is an absolute game-changer,” Schumer said.

Cars Sharing Main Street is expected to have a $71 million spin-off in private sector projects developed along the spine of the central business district.

“It has created a whole new look and feel in downtown Buffalo,” said Rep. Brian Higgins.

That new look and confidence for Main Street have attracted likely and unlikely investors alike.

The law firm of Ricotta & Visco spent more than $1.6 million to bring a century-old building not only back to life but as its operations base. A few years ago, the firm would not have considered making such an investment, said founding partner Kevin Ricotta.

“We consider it a new beginning – for us, for the building, for downtown,” he said.

James Fink covers real estate, commercial development and government

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