Buffalo used to be synonymous with stagnation. For decades not much seemed to change around here except the architect’s renderings of the latest pipe dreams. Now, however, when someone has an idea, the collective reaction is to look for the shovels in the ground and the cranes in the air.
As Buffalonians, though, we retain a bit of the old caution. Still, three projects in the fledgling stages point to an exciting future.
On the planning board is the resurrection of the historic Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Terminal into a busy transit hub and commercial center under a plan recently finalized by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
The dream needs multimillions of dollars to become reality, making an application for $42 million in mostly federal money key to moving ahead. It won’t be easy, but it is well worth pursuing.
Of the concepts presented for redeveloping the hulking structure next to First Niagara Center, NFTA commissioners settled on “Alternative B.” That approach routes Metro Rail traffic onto the ground floor of the complex along its Buffalo River side, with shops and other commercial development on the second floor.
As attractive as the plan is, with no money in hand, work likely will not start for a couple of years. The delay will allow time to go over details of the makeover. It will also allow the NFTA to focus on an equally important project: improving the transit connection between Buffalo and Amherst, possibly by extending Metro Rail or enhancing bus service.
On the Outer Harbor, a $40 million to $60 million private project has been proposed for the former Freezer Queen site. Developer Gerald A. Buchheit originally wanted to rehabilitate and expand the giant warehouse at 975 Fuhrmann Blvd., beside the Small Boat Harbor. Now, because of increased interest in the site, the plan is to tear down the existing building and replace it with a 23-story apartment building containing 160 to 200 units.
Such a radical design is out of character with the Outer Harbor and deserves careful scrutiny before getting the go-ahead, but it does show the enthusiasm that has built up for a once-lonely stretch of land.
And opportunities are presenting themselves in neighborhoods far away from the typical downtown development activity.
Dr. Fadi Dagher, a native of Lebanon and former Kaleida Health surgeon, is keenly interested in the rebirth of the East Side. He and his team have begun multiple projects along Broadway near Fillmore Avenue, creating new residential, office, retail and light-industrial spaces in two vacant former department stores and a third empty manufacturing building.
His company, Cedarland Development Group, has set its sights on redevelopment of the former Eckhardt’s Department Store building, as well as the nearby former Sattler’s Department Store building at 998 Broadway, and 642 Broadway, a two-story, 22,000-square-foot concrete building farther down the street.
We no longer have to imagine a renaissance, not just in downtown and the waterfront but in all of Buffalo. Big-thinking urban developers are making it happen.