There is a wave passing along Main Street in downtown Buffalo. It began slowly, and is picking up speed as it moves south from the 700 block and increasingly into the 500 and 400 blocks.
It is progress of a kind that rescues neglected buildings and makes them usable – desirable – again. New life is being breathed into structures of significance, filling them with spaces for living, working and entertainment.
Restaurants and specialty shops have been opening, apartments are leasing. The activity level, helped in part by the return of cars to a portion of Main Street, hasn’t been this high in years. Much attention is focused on cultural anchors, such as Shea’s Performing Arts, Shea’s 710 Theatre, Irish Classical Theatre, the Town Ballroom and others hosting events that attract everyone from millennials to baby boomers and beyond. Closer to the waterfront, new apartments and condo projects are being added to the rolls. And the ripples from these development nodes continue to spread.
Example: The recent announcements that two new proposals would add “apartments, shops and commercial space” to the 400 and 500 blocks of Main. It provides more evidence that the transformation is not a pipe dream, that it is real and continuing.
The Buffalo Planning Board just approved J. Roger Trettel’s mixed-use, multiple-storefront project that will combine three adjacent buildings in the 500 block of Main Street “into a single facility with four first-floor commercial or storefront spaces and eight live-work apartments on the upper three floors,” as News business reporter Jonathan D. Epstein wrote.
Nearby, Ellicott Development Co. and McGuire Development Co. also won approval for their design for renovating the outside of the former Baker Shoe Department Store building, including its marquee sign at 456 Main St.
Look at Amy and Mark Judd’s project to convert the former Loew’s Theater Warehouse building at 510 Washington St. into market-rate apartments. Farther south, Paul Kolkmeyer has two projects in the 200 block of Main with residential spaces: The Marin and the Glenny.
And let’s not forget the enormous challenge Douglas Jemal accepted in resuscitating One Seneca Tower. The first step is the plaza area, which will become a mix of residential space, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, a grocery, a fitness center, clothing stores and amenities.
The climate enabling this transformation owes much to the new attitude sparked by the Buffalo Billion. And with that, many elements are working together to keep the transformation moving, especially the return of cars to Main Street. That’s happened already between Tupper and Mohawk streets. Construction starts this summer on a two-year project to return cars to the lower portion of Main, between Exchange and Scott streets.
We look forward to the day when vehicles will roll up and down the length of Main, adding another measure of vitality to downtown. Getting there will take both political leadership and millions more in infrastructure funding.
Meanwhile, the synergy between investment and demand along downtown’s Main Street is getting stronger. It is a welcome sight, worth encouraging.