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GROUP SAYS TRAFFIC CAN SUPPORT STORES

Companies downtown come and go, but the volume of pedestrian traffic -- and thus a retailer's market -- has remained steady since 1992, a new Buffalo Place Inc. survey found.

The survey found total daily pedestrian activity, primarily along Main Street, is flat, up less than 0.2 percent from 1992's total, to 284,442 from 283,795. Since 1988, however, daily activity is up a strong 17.1 percent, from 207,254.

"The good news is there continues to be a great number of people who frequent downtown," said Richard T. Reinhard, Buffalo Place Inc.'s executive director. "The bad news is that we haven't been able to develop the proper retail strategy to adequately serve those people."

"We were surprised by how little change, the amount of stability, since 1992," said Debra Chernoff, Buffalo Place's planning manager and the point person for the pedestrian survey.

The survey results are based on people counts at 23 locations taken from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the work week during June, July and August 1994. The numbers are adjusted since survey locations were added and subtracted since 1988.

A huge shift in volume occurred in the M&T Plaza/Main Place Mall area, where the total daily volume since 1992 jumped 40 percent, to 27,492 from 19,632. The central location now ranks behind only Lafayette Square, with 41,292 pedestrian trips, as a destination.

The large M&T Plaza/Main Place Mall increase was attributed to such factors as a warm summer of 1994, which favored outdoor lunch areas, and the opening of Jim Kelly's Sport City Grille, Network and the Coffee Roastery in Main Place Mall.

Lunchtime activity in the shopping district from Huron to Church Street rose 2 percent from 1992, but is 5 percent below 1991's peak.

The decline was most notable in the Huron to Lafayette Square area, where four survey locations were down an average of 1,100 people per hour.

In contrast, the AM&A's/M&T Plaza areas increased on average by 4,500 people per hour.

The survey also found that 39 percent of pedestrian traffic occurs between noon and 2 p.m., down from 45 percent in 1991. With 1994's total pedestrian count up 3.1 percent from 1991, the lunchtime change indicates that traffic has increased in the mid-morning and later afternoon periods.

One major change downtown not reflected in the mid-1994 survey was The Bon-Ton's decision to close the massive former Adam Medrum & Anderson Co. Main Street store.

However, Reinhard and Ms. Chernoff disagreed on the impact the shutdown will have on the next pedestrian survey.

"The impact of The Bon-Ton closing will be a definite negative on pedestrian counts; there will be less reason for people to be out on the street," Reinhard said.

Ms. Chernoff, however, feels that while the store was open last summer, the York, Pa.-based retailer still was in the process of remaking the store in its own retailing image. Thus, merchandise shelves were not fully stocked, leaving shoppers without much reason to frequent the location.

Both Ms. Chernoff and Reinhard remain convinced the right retail mix could capitalize on downtown's built-in shopping populace. "The bodies are on the street and could be drawn into stores if the retail was there," Ms. Chernoff said.

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