No one can say Buffalo doesn’t know how to seize the moment. In the four years since we first heard the term “Buffalo Billion,” the region has been on a development tear.
The gigantic, publicly funded SolarCity factory going up on South Park Avenue in South Buffalo, the mushrooming Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the HarborCenter and its Marriott hotel built by Terry and Kim Pegula have grabbed most of the attention, but there have been many other significant projects.
Developers across the region jumped into the game, snapping up well-placed old buildings and using the 40 percent discount from the state historic tax credit program to rebuild them into apartments. The results have been amazing. Glorious loft style apartments with brick walls and modern kitchens abound, and landlords say they have no problem renting them.
Some of the old buildings have become office space, and a few now hold stores and restaurants.
Individuals are also getting involved, buying old houses across the city and pouring their fortunes and labor into remodeling and rebuilding. Many of these folks are becoming new landlords, learning the business from the other side of the rent check exchange.
The big, expensive project of returning cars to Main Street in downtown Buffalo has kept excitement at a fever pitch, and apartments and stores are following along those reopened blocks.
Outside the city, pending projects like the Whole Foods store in Amherst and hotel and loft projects in Niagara Falls make the development renaissance a regional phenomenon.
But the center of the explosion remains downtown Buffalo. A Rust Belt city with an intrinsic cool personality is getting a makeover. The progress has drawn all sorts of attention from around the country and around the world. People returning to the city are amazed.
But the most important result of all of the work is this: the kids dig it. Young people who may have fled the region in earlier years are now flocking to city apartments – right here. They are finding jobs and settling down.
We can’t overemphasize the importance of this.
For the physical shift in the city to really take hold, it must be embraced as a generational shift. Early numbers show young people are being drawn here – either back for family reasons or drawn anew for jobs.
By all means, welcome them. The population boomlet they represent is the fuel all businesses need to keep the growth engine running.