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Downtown redevelopment continues with reopening of 500 block of Main to autos

The work is largely finished on the 500 block and Fountain Plaza area of Main Street in downtown Buffalo, and the first cars are expected to start driving on that stretch of the street again next month.

Steven Carmina, a Buffalo Place board member who chairs the group’s downtown living committee, said crews are just “doing their punch list and fixing stuff that’s been broken in the last couple of months.” The dumpsters are gone at Roosevelt Plaza, and the Huron-Genesee Street spur is “pretty much cleaned up,” in preparation for the completion and opening of this phase of the Cars Sharing Main Street project, he said.

“The date has moved a lot, but we’re talking about December, which will be really nice, considering all those restaurants will be isolated again from foot traffic” due to the weather, Carmina told the Buffalo Place board last week. “Having the cars would be nice.”

Attention now shifts to the next phase, covering the portion of Main from Exchange Street south to Scott Street, with a crossover between Scott and Perry Street.

The city received an $18 million grant from the federal Department of Transportation to help with the $22.5 million project, said Debra Chernoff, manager of planning at Buffalo Place. City officials will start design work “as soon as they can” and will have until the end of the summer to complete that process and bid the project out.

While some work could begin late in 2016, Chernoff said the bulk of it will take place during the 2017 construction season.

Still, there’s another $75 million to $80 million of work that remains on the stretch of Main from Mohawk Street south to Exchange, noted Chairman Keith Belanger, an executive at M&T Bank Corp. And work to convert Pearl Street back to two-way traffic is beginning at Tupper Street.

Meanwhile, three redevelopment projects are wrapping up along Main Street downtown, as developers seek to capitalize on the new traffic.

Carmina, who is also principal of architectural firm Carmina Wood Morris P.C., said the scaffolding is now down at his renovation of 5-7 Genesee St., and “there are window openings in that building for the first time since the early ’70s, maybe going back into the ’60s.”

Crews are finishing masonry work and some inside shoring, and new roofs will go on next week, designed to look like the tin roofs in place in the 1800s when the structure was built.

And Just Fries, the french fry cafe that Don Warfe is opening in the building, is expected to open by Christmas, he said.

Avalon Development owner Chris Jacobs, who is also Erie County clerk, said he’s “about a month out” from finishing the commercial space at the former Birzon Jewelers building at 686 Main. Jacobs already owns 678 Main next door and is connecting the two buildings so that the first and second floors will be seamless.

The Daily Post, which is already on the first floor of 678 Main, will expand into the first floor of Birzon, while 3rd Learning will now occupy the entire second floor of both buildings.

The third floor of Birzon will have nine loft apartments that will be available at the start of 2016, said Jacobs, who is working with John Barry and Paul Kolkmeyer.

Finally, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. will begin accepting tenants at the converted Sinclair Building, formerly University at Buffalo’s EOC, at 465 Washington St., at Mohawk.

The building will have 45 apartments, with a first floor restaurant in front and some office space. CEO Paul Ciminelli said the developer has a tenant moving into that space.