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Real Estate & Development

Projects to watch in suburban Erie and Niagara counties

Not all the development activity is going on in Buffalo. There are plenty of new projects in the suburbs that could have a big impact on the region in the coming years.

The biggest – and most long-term projects – would create big retail, office and residential complexes in spaces that now are struggling as suburban malls. Others would expand manufacturing capabilities and help build the region's tourism base.

Here's a look at several projects worth watching in 2020:

Clarence

In 2020, the owners of the Eastern Hills Mall will take the first steps toward the $250 million town center proposed for the Clarence site.

Uniland Development Co. and Mountain Development, with the Gensler architecture firm, in December unveiled their plan for boutique-style retail mixed in with restaurants, recreational space, housing, offices and hotels.

This year the companies will try to secure tenants and financing. Construction on the initial phase of retail and public green space would begin as soon as 2021, with the full project taking 20 years to complete.

Amherst

Town and business leaders trying to reach agreement on a long-debated proposal to reshape a large section of central Amherst face a deadline to act this year.

Amherst officials and the owners of the former Westwood Country Club have informally agreed to a swap of public and private property. The plan would preserve the country club as parkland and a theater, see a medical building and hotel constructed near the town’s Northtown Center and perhaps add additional sports venues and housing in the area.

The parties remain divided over land values and other stumbling blocks. Construction is unlikely to begin this year, but the town and developers face a July deadline to reach agreement or the state approval of the land swap expires.

Prospectus 2020 (links to all sections)

Lancaster

Lancaster's West Main Street project, more than a half-century in the making, is now on the brink of building a walkable downtown with creekside park, bike lanes and old-time village center.

Villagers can expect to see road construction extending West Main to Aurora Street beginning in 2020. The $2.5 million project will convert West Main into a two-lane boulevard that in coming years will be lined with 48 upscale apartments and up to 20 retail spaces.

“The road is the catalyst to restore the historic street grid,” said developer Tommy Sweeney, who expects to spend at least $8 million on the project.

The developer plans to use a phased approach to add 12 building blocks along the new street.

"As you go downhill, the entrance level for each building will be aligned with the roadway. Phase One will consist of four buildings with first-floor retail and upper-floor apartments. The one- and two-bedroom apartments will run from $1,100 to $1,300 a month. We’re also looking to set up charging stations for electrical cars,” said Sweeney.

Mayor William Schroeder expected to starting the bidding process for road construction early next year.

He advised patience.

“We’re not going to get another chance to do this, so it has to be done right. Everyone is antsy, and it is progressing as planned. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time," said Schroeder.

West Seneca

Rosina Foods’ $58 million investment in its new plant on Clinton Street in West Seneca is just the first phase of a plan to keep the local company making frozen meatballs, sausage and toppings in Western New York.

The expansion of Rosina's footprint in West Seneca is before the Planning Board, with construction on the 100,000-square-foot plant expected to start this year.

If the new factory was not built, Rosina said it would have to shut down its Cheektowaga processing line, which is no longer competitive, and shift that work to a Chicago company.

Orchard Park

A new medical building is expected to be the first phase of a major multi-use development in Orchard Park. Orchard Park town planners are hoping to see detailed plans of Ellicott Development’s development of more than 70 acres on vacant land west of North Buffalo Road and south of Webster Road.

Buffalo Medical Group wants to build a companion to its office building at North Buffalo Road and Holland Drive. It would be located behind the existing building.

“It’s a fairly substantial project,” said Planning Coordinator Remy Orffeo.

Long range plans call for a three-story hotel, other medical facilities, single family homes and retail space.

Niagara Falls

The growth of entertainment and lodging options will continue in downtown Niagara Falls in 2020.

Rupal Hospitality's plans to reopen the former Niagara Club, 24 Buffalo Ave., as a banquet and entertainment facility will be completed this year, company president Nirel Patel said.

The project, whose costs have grown from $3 million to $4.5 million, will begin with the opening of a Spot Coffee location in the building by "mid-spring," Patel said. The rest of the project should be open late in the year, featuring several entertainment lounges with varying themes and a rooftop lounge affording views of the upper Niagara River rapids just across the street.

Rupal owns the Courtyard by Marriott hotel a few blocks to the east. "Having a banquet facility within walking distance of the falls is an integral part of our hospitality portfolio," Patel said.

Also on the drawing board for this year is a $22.5 million plan from Merani Hotel Group to erect two five-story buildings at 402-430 Buffalo Ave. One building will be an 83-room Holiday Inn Express, while the other will house 36 market-rate apartments and two ground-floor commercial spaces, to be filled by a Tim Hortons and a Circle K convenience store.

Michael Marsch, vice president of operations for Merani, said construction will start this year, but the buildings probably won't open until 2021.

When the Holiday Inn Express opens, it will be Merani's fourth downtown Niagara Falls hotel, along with the Holiday Inn, DoubleTree and Four Points by Sheraton.

"We're diversifying our portfolio a little bit," Marsch said. "We don't own any apartment buildings, or any retail space except for the restaurants we have. We're definitely filling a need in regard to market-rate housing in the downtown area. There isn't any."

Lockport

In Lockport, the renovation of the old Tuscarora Club into a banquet venue and a 17-room boutique hotel will begin this year with asbestos removal, funded in part by a $300,000 brownfield grant from Niagara County, according to city planning and development director Brian M. Smith.

"We hope to have the banquet facility open by mid-2020," owner Dominick Ciliberto said.

The $2.5 million project involves installation of a new elevator to reach the hotel rooms on the second and third floors of the 109-year-old former social club. Some of those rooms could be available by the end of the year, Ciliberto said.

"We're able to get a certificate of occupancy for individual rooms as long as that whole area has been remodeled," Ciliberto said.

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