For six years, amid the Buffalo Billion boom, there has been a nagging back-of-the-mind question: What comes next?
The hope all along has been that public spending would spur private investment. There have been great examples: Conventus on the Medical Campus, the Central Park development on the East Side, HarborCenter downtown.
But one of the sweetest examples is playing out in North Buffalo.The biggest Buffalo housing development in decades is under construction on a 23-acre property between Colvin and Starin avenues.
And get this: Young people are buying the new homes in numbers that surprise the developer.
And this: Buyers are leaving the suburbs to snap up these city homes.
The development is called Colvin Estates. It was started in 2011 by Burke Homes and the City of Buffalo. Burke built and sold the first 24 homes. Marrano/Marc Equity Corp. took over the project early this year and developed 34 more home sites, 32 of which have already sold. The development will have 128 homes in all when the project is finished.
The price tag on the homes has surprised the developer, too. He expected them to sell in the mid-$300,000 range. Instead, they are selling for as much as $500,000, chiefly because buyers are loading on high-end finishes.
All this is great news for the city. For one thing, the Marrano project will add $1 million in tax revenue to city coffers each year, according to Mayor Byron W. Brown. For another, housing starts are a key measure of economic vitality. Through July, Buffalo had just 24 new home starts, the same as last year. Marrano's sales will more than double that number.
Just as important, the arrival of these suburban millennials — with many more to follow, we hope — is a lift for a city that has had more than its share of rough times.
The new North Buffalonians will be able to take advantage of the dining, entertainment and shopping options on Hertel Avenue, which has undergone a resurgence in the past five years. A branch of the Lexington Co-op Market opened on Hertel in 2017, and Dash's Market is expanding. Star attractions nearby include Deep South Taco, Lloyd Taco, Churn, Lake Effect Ice Cream and Hertel Avenue Poutine and Cream.
For all you business people wondering about the city, listen to John Manns, a Marrano Homes executive. "We're doing good in all our locations," he told News reporter Jonathan D. Epstein, "but I wish I had three more Colvin Estates."