It may seem to some as a small-enough victory. With the treasure trove of priceless architecture that gives life to the Buffalo streetscape, the Market Arcade may seem to be of little concern. We would argue otherwise. It’s a magnificent little gem that reflects the beauty of Buffalo.
It’s a gem that had lost its luster and was nearly discarded. That was before developer Nick Sinatra bought the 125-year-old building, restored and updated it, and ultimately leased out its three stunning levels of shops and offices.
Buffalo architects E.B. Green and W.S. Wicks modeled the building after an arcade in London. Architectural historian Frank Kowsky called it “probably the most ornamental commercial building downtown, with the exception of Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building.”
The arcade is a harbinger and beneficiary of Buffalo’s revival. Businesses are moving in partly because Sinatra made the effort to improve it. But, like Sinatra, they also saw that Buffalo’s changing fortunes carried the promise of additional success.
Several factors have fed that revival, beginning with the renewed confidence that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development program has infused in the psyche of a hard-luck city. But there was more than that. The return of cars to Main Street, where the Market Arcade has struggled in recent years, has increased traffic. And the arrival of the neighboring and connected EXPO Market, also owned by Sinatra, has made a difference.
Which is to say that, as in many other ways around Buffalo, things started coming together.
They did at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, as the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital and the University at Buffalo Medical School prepare to move there, among many other developments.
They did in other downtown areas as old, forlorn buildings, possibly facing their own date with the wrecker’s ball, were rehabilitated into apartments that were immediately filled with millennials, empty nesters and others discovering the advantages of urban living.
It has been Buffalo’s blessing – based both on foresight and good luck – that so many of these structures survived the city’s decades-long economic slide. It’s true of the big, magnificent buildings that sprinkle the city, it’s true of the old warehouses that are finding new life and it’s true of a tiny gem like the Market Arcade.
The building’s long, rectangular shape; its open, interior space topped by a skylight; and its European styling make it one of the city’s most compelling buildings. Its new life bodes well for the city’s continued revival. Faith in the building by Sinatra and its tenants is based on faith in an awakening city. Their expectations are likely to fuel the same in others, as virtuous cycles of renewal build on one another.
It’s not all the doing of the Market Arcade, but the building’s renewal is emblematic of a city arising from the doldrums of its long decline. It’s a success story worth celebrating.