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Master plan for Buffalo’s Central Terminal includes townhouses

Harry Stinson’s master plan for Buffalo’s Central Terminal is coming further into focus with the Toronto developer’s announcement Tuesday that he also wants to build 400 to 500 townhouses in the neighborhood surrounding the long-vacant East Side train station.

The housing component, when combined with his proposed renovation of the Central Terminal, will create a neighborhood, Stinson said.

The two go hand in hand, he said. Proceeds from the sale of the townhouses will be invested into renovation of the terminal.

When coupled like that, he said, the plan makes economic sense. “This needs to be two-pronged,” the developer said.

Stinson was named designated developer of the Central Terminal on Tuesday by Central Terminal Restoration Corp., the nonprofit that owns the historic building at 495 Paderewski Drive.

Later Tuesday, the Common Council gave Stinson the status as designated developer of the 15-acre, city-owned lot at 59 Memorial Drive, adjacent to the Central Terminal property.

Stinson already was working on a Central Terminal plan under a six-month letter of intent signed in December with the restoration corporation. He has been talking about revitalizing the 87-year-old former train station into a mixed-use building that would include a hotel and banquet facilities.

As newly designated developer, Stinson will now refine his terminal plan and develop a detailed residential plan. He is expected to spend much of the next six months meeting with elected officials, preservationists and neighborhood residents to create specific plans.

Stinson also must negotiate to purchase the land from the city and pay the city $1,000 a month during the length of the six-month agreement, which also features a six-month extension. The designated developer fees could go toward the eventual purchase of the property.

The developer has previously said he anticipates investing as much as $100 million on the Central Terminal building. The housing component, he said Tuesday, could represent an additional $100 million investment.

Stinson said he envisions building the 400 to 500 townhouses on the 15-acre tract adjacent to the Central Terminal property.

The townhouses would sell for $200,000 to $300,000 each and would be targeted to workers on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Stinson said.

In fact, he said, there would be a shuttle between the townhouse neighborhood and the Medical Campus.

The neighborhood, he said, will have the feeling of a village. A vacant building currently on the 15-acre site, once a mail delivery station, will be turned into a food market serving the neighborhood.

There also would also be businesses in the Central Terminal, such as a dry cleaner, to serve the neighborhood, Stinson said.

Fillmore Councilman David A. Franczyk praised the developer’s plan.

“It’s a very, very exciting prospect,” Franczyk said. “The last time I heard of any development for 59 Memorial was 25 years ago, and that never happened.”

Franczyk added, “We want the East Side to enjoy the fruits of Buffalo’s revitalization, just like downtown and the waterfront. Now, it’s time. It’s ready.”

Mark A. Lewandowski, president and CEO of Central Terminal Restoration Corp., also praised the project, and expressed confidence in Stinson’s ability to get it done.

“As stewards of this property, it’s important that we maintain the building’s storied history while working toward accurately restoring this gem on Buffalo’s East Side,” Lewandowski said.

“We think, with the experience and passion of Harry and his team for the project, that they are perfect partners to take this next step forward in the Central Terminal’s restoration.”

Opened in 1929, the Central Terminal was designed to serve more than 200 trains and 10,000 passengers daily, and operated for 50 years until it closed as a train station in 1979. The 18-acre site was acquired by the nonprofit group in 1997, with a mission to revive interest in the building, clean it up and begin the process of restoring it. Its four clocks on the office tower were repaired and relit in 1999, while the main concourse was reopened to the public in 2003.

Stinson has experience in redeveloping and restoring large-scale historic buildings, including One King West and the Candy Factory in Toronto. He acquired the historic 92-year-old Hotel Niagara in Niagara Falls, with plans for a redevelopment of the shuttered facility, but ultimately agreed to sell the 12-story building to USA Niagara Development Corp. in March for $4.4 million.

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