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Old Posted Aug 10, 2013, 12:34 AM
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The Buffalo Boom (Rust Belt city finally on the upswing)

article in The Architects Newspaper

source: Archpaper.com

THE BUFFALO BOOM
After decades of stagnation and decline, this Rust Belt city is finally on the upswing
by Jenna M. McKnight

Quote:
...Beleaguered for decades by a stagnant economy and depopulation, this Rust Belt city is finally on the upswing. Construction projects totaling more than $1 billion are in the works, from quaint hotels to large mixed-use complexes, with an eye toward regenerating downtown. “The city is the strongest it’s been in years,” Brown told the optimistic crowd.

Why the turnaround? Many attribute the boom to low interest rates combined with the city’s upgraded credit rating. State and federal tax credits to revitalize historic buildings have also proved alluring. Moreover, in 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged $1 billion in incentives for private-sector development. It all amounts to a renaissance for a city that hopes to return to the glory of its Industrial-age heyday.

“Our plan is to address the impediments that have held back growth: To turn older buildings into adaptive reuse projects, to focus on creating funding sources to stabilize distressed neighborhoods, to have a more vibrant waterfront,” explained Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. “We’d definitely like to see a population increase,” he added, “but we are focused on making a Buffalo that Buffalonians can really enjoy.”
full article: http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6787
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Old Posted Aug 10, 2013, 12:36 AM
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Just a decade ago in 2003 the city of Buffalo, NY was in a fiscal crisis (on the verge of bankruptcy) and the State (under Governor Pataki) established a "hard" control board, the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority. The control board froze the wages of city employees and has authority to approve or reject all major expenditures. According the BFSA's most recent 2011-2012 report: "Since BFSA was created in 2003, the City of Buffalo and its taxpayers have saved more than $379.5 million." As of July 2012, the control board has moved into an advisory board ("soft" control board), which will be in effect until June 30, 2037 (unless it has to exert "hard" control once again).

Fast forward 10 years to 2013 and Buffalo, NY has a Moody's credit rating of A1, the highest in the city's history.

More development is happening in Buffalo's downtown, the core of the 1.1 Million Buffalo-Niagara Falls MSA, than has (arguably) occurred in decades!
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Old Posted Aug 10, 2013, 12:43 AM
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Yes I'm officially getting on the bandwagon. The mood is very different than it's ever been here--the focus on small projects is where the difference is this time. The big projects are in the health and education sector, which means we're not adding to vacant space with silver-bullet type projects. Time will tell if SUNY can keep from meddling in the medical campus and keep this from being the big winner it should be, but even with that this is still adding up to a sea change for the city.
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Old Posted Aug 11, 2013, 5:19 AM
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Its good news, and I've seen the changes since I've been here as stated in other threads. As of this fall I will have been in Buffalo a full 4 years, starting #5. I've gotten to know the city fairly well.

On the city budget, I tend to think a failure of a government budget tends to be the end result of private market failures, since government revenue comes from taxes on the private sector. The better credit rating is the end result - not the cause - of a city that has collected itself and dusted off the worst of the past. One thing I think is helping Buffalo are the public-private partnerships and tax incentives that are being thrown around. While I don't love the wrong kind of incentives, for example I think new ballparks only go so far and should have a larger private role, the incentives the state and local governments seem to be working with are helping smaller business and individuals who purchase housing and services/goods from those business ventures.

This government and private industry finally holding hands (to a degree) and getting along is going a long way toward Buffalo's recovery.
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Old Posted Aug 11, 2013, 6:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon716 View Post
Its good news, and I've seen the changes since I've been here as stated in other threads. As of this fall I will have been in Buffalo a full 4 years, starting #5. I've gotten to know the city fairly well.

...The better credit rating is the end result - not the cause - of a city that has collected itself and dusted off the worst of the past...
This government and private industry finally holding hands (to a degree) and getting along is going a long way toward Buffalo's recovery.
agreed on both points. and thanks for being one of the people to replace me when I left Buffalo after finishing my degree.
One day I'll be back to visit and we'll have to go out for a beer
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Old Posted Aug 13, 2013, 1:10 AM
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Buffalo is absolutely on a much deserved upswing. I am eagerly awaiting the announcement of a new downtown office tower (Delaware North).
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Old Posted Aug 13, 2013, 1:43 AM
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Any word on HSBC emptying out One HSBC centre? I seem to remember reading that somewhere a while ago.

Edit: googled it, and it will be 90% empty by the end of 2013. That's no good.
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Old Posted Aug 13, 2013, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by East72nd View Post
Buffalo is absolutely on a much deserved upswing. I am eagerly awaiting the announcement of a new downtown office tower (Delaware North).
Indeed!
And I'm also extremely curious to see what their plans are.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Innsertnamehere View Post
Any word on HSBC emptying out One HSBC centre? I seem to remember reading that somewhere a while ago.

Edit: googled it, and it will be 90% empty by the end of 2013. That's no good.
You may think it's no good, but First Niagara, M&T, Key Bank, Bank of America have all taken over the deposits of former HSBC customers in Western NY, with First Niagara taking the lion's share and most of HSBC's WNY branches. Buying out HSBC's WNY deposits (among other acquisitions) has propelled First Niagara Bank from a tiny regional bank into the 44th largest in the US. Along with M&T Bank (#29), there are now 2 Buffalo-based banks among the Top 50 banks in the United States once again.

As for the tower itself, it needed to be renovated anyway so the building emptying out is a prime opportunity to turn the building into a mixed-use tower.
Buffalo has a recent history of turning old, outdated buildings into something great by gutting and re-skinning them.

Example 1: former Dulski Federal building (built 1973, ~400,000 SF), gutted to the frame and revamped into Avant mixed-use building (182-room Embassy Suites hotel, office space, high-end condominiums-including the most expensive condo in city)

before

source: WNY Heritage Press

gutted

my photo via Wikipedia

now

source: Buffalo Rising

example 2: Donovan State Office Building (built 1960)


gutted

source: Optima Design & Engineering

now rebranded as One Canalside mixed-use building (96-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel, office space for one of Buffalo's top law firms--that is vacating One HSBC tower, 2 restaurants and retail space)

source: jaybird @pbase.com

Buffalo is a city where buildings can be in such poor shape (holes in roof, floors collapsed, facade usable only) that most people would say "demolish" but ingenious Buffalonians renew these buildings into something great again (ex: Webb building, now Lofts on Pearl boutique hotel, and 591 Delaware)

Now granted the HSBC Tower is a huge office building, but giving the exterior a fresh coat of paint and gutting the inside to convert it into AA office space, and condos, hotel space, restaurants, retail will do wonders. I know it's a monumental undertaking, but have confidence it can be done.
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Old Posted Aug 13, 2013, 11:54 PM
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both those looked better before the reno IMO, but any renewal is good renewal in Buffalo.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 12:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Innsertnamehere View Post
both those looked better before the reno IMO, but any renewal is good renewal in Buffalo.
and also better for the city's budget. These buildings can now be assessed at much higher rates, giving the city much higher property tax revenue.
And replacing single use office buildings, only active til 5pm, with mixed-use is much better for the city's vibrancy.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 12:19 AM
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That Avant building is simply stunning and I think one of the better rehabs I have seen anywhere. I am concerned/interested however in HSBC. It is much bigger. Has any study been done as to what sort of mix it could support and if there is that much demand for apartments/condos?
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 12:22 AM
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Recladding should be far more common I think. Hell, I would reclad the whole of Vegas to look more like the City Center project if I had control of things. those buildings look great.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 12:29 AM
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Good to replace POS buildings like those with more useful outcomes. Kudos.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 1:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by East72nd View Post
That Avant building is simply stunning and I think one of the better rehabs I have seen anywhere. I am concerned/interested however in HSBC. It is much bigger. Has any study been done as to what sort of mix it could support and if there is that much demand for apartments/condos?
agreed on Avant. The condos look gorgeous. Some units have both Lake Erie and city views!

As for One HSBC Center, the owner, Seneca One Realty brought in the Urban Land Institute to do a quick study of the building over a few days in February of this year.
Here's a link to their PowerPoint presentation http://www.uli.org/wp-content/upload...SBC-ULI-05.pdf

In 2004, the Zimmerman-Volk & Associates (city-commissioned) study showed that downtown Buffalo could absorb I believe it was ~75 units a year.
I completed my Urban Planning Senior Thesis (2008) where I showed that demand exceeded what the existing study estimated. And a bunch of the examples I used as potential re-development sites have also since been redeveloped into market rate units

Zimmerman-Volk came back in 2011 and re-did the study which stated that in their expanded downtown study area (to include areas near the Medical Campus, Larkin District, Canalside) they estimated that absorption has increased to 161-323 market rate units a year or "between 805 and 1,291 new dwelling units within the Downtown Buffalo Study Area over the next five years"
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 2:33 AM
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What is this Delaware North tower you're referring to?

Whatever happened to Bashar Issa? Did his tower go the way of the proposed Adelphia Tower?
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 2:57 AM
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What is this Delaware North tower you're referring to?

Whatever happened to Bashar Issa? Did his tower go the way of the proposed Adelphia Tower?
Yes, he left the city before finishing renovations on the Statler, and his pie-in-the-sky 'City Tower' never left the land of fairytale proposals stored somewhere at city hall
Bashar Issa went bankrupt and fled back to Britain where he is now in jail for tax fraud

As for Delaware North, the food service/hospitality company owned by Bruins owner/Buffalo Billionaire-Jeremy Jacobs is seeking to vacate their space at Key Towers in Buffalo in 2015. Its been speculated that they might be a tenant in the proposed building that Uniland wants to build on the site of the current Delaware Court building at the corner of Chippewa and Delaware. It's speculated to be a 15-20 story building, which is only a tower by Buffalo standards

Expert on most things Buffalo,
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 9:47 AM
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Recladding should be far more common I think. Hell, I would reclad the whole of Vegas to look more like the City Center project if I had control of things. those buildings look great.
These projects weren't just recladding the exterior, in the two examples posted the buildings were stripped down to their steel and concrete frames and completely rebuilt.

I think both of these projects really have helped Buffalo shake off the image that its a city stuck in the 70's and has awakened. The additional construction on new projects underway continues that effort.

The problem with these projects is that it requires a lot of capital. You're essentially investing into a new building. Most developers prefer to just build something new instead of spending the money to destroy and rebuild, so these projects are hard to find. Buffalo certainly needed it.

The entire downtown area has been revamped with new buildings in the past decade: the new Blue Cross/Blue Shield building, the Avant, the Donovan remake, the new buildings from Erie Community College. Now these new buildings... Downtown Buffalo has come a long way in just the past decade from the 1980's depression.
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Old Posted Aug 14, 2013, 9:55 AM
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agreed on both points. and thanks for being one of the people to replace me when I left Buffalo after finishing my degree.
One day I'll be back to visit and we'll have to go out for a beer
I'm always open to touring and having a drink, so if you're ever around let me know.

What I think most people simply do not understand is that when you hear of Buffalo's economic woes spoken about in business circles (especially people who don't understand the city or the region) is when they say its just 'government spending' and union workers causing problems, it perpetuates this simple-stupid argument simply by rewinding and repeating it until they think its truth even though its not. Are local taxes high here? Yes, they are, but you know what other state has high property taxes? Texas. Business isn't being deterred from locating there when taxes in metro Dallas are comparable to Buffalo. The Dallas economy is arguably stronger than Atlanta, even though the Atlanta region has about half the property tax rate of regional cities in Dallas (or Buffalo). What is another state/region that has relatively low property taxes? California. A matter of fact, that is part of why California's property values can rise so high, the tax rate is so incredibly low out there it allows people to afford more mortgage. Tax rates don't explain a thing.

Buffalo is beyond its worst period, it isn't in the middle of it, and the reason why the city was near bankruptcy was because of market failures - not government spending - and the fact that the market had no jobs to produce residents paying the same level of taxes.

What caused that market to fail? Well, it wasn't government spending. Core industries that rooted the region failed, due to global geopolitical issues and industry leaving the entire nation, not because of any local government program or steel/auto/etc union worker. Lackawanna faced similar fate because the steel mills left. Why did those jobs leave? Well, even if every last worker was non-union, no one could compete with cheap Korean or other Asian steel. You could have taken away all health benefits and union rights from every last steelworker in this region, they still would have lost their jobs. When these workers lose their jobs, they aren't buying homes or spending in the local economy, or paying taxes. Many moved away to find jobs and their homes were foreclosed on, of which a significant amount were left abandoned.

Anyway, you know this, I know this, but its important to fight ignorance at every chance we get. Buffalo didn't fail, the market failed. And its being rebuilt. There is nothing more annoying than listening to some arrogant prick point to Buffalo and say "yea, that big liberal spending, union city killed itself and has no hope". What really hurt Buffalo was the geopolitical situation, outside of any local regional control.

What a lot of these so-called business publications that like to poke fun at Buffalo don't realize is that all those old industrial jobs are gone, there is no more jobs base to be destroyed. It already happened, and it largely happened decades ago. There's no longer massive job loss here, and the unemployment here has been under the national average for years. Unlike poor Detroit, Buffalo's recovery has already been happening for a decade and continues. All these new developments are progress in the same direction: upward. It is the publication that likes to bash Buffalo that is stuck in the 1970's and 80's, not the city of Buffalo.

Even during the height of the local market depression, this region has been on the move. Despite the situation, there have been impressive infrastructure improvements here. In 1997 Buffalo got a new airport terminal with an expansion that opened in 1999 and replaced the old airport entirely, and Niagara Falls got a new commercial airport as well that opened in 2009 currently with regular flights with two discounter airlines - Spirit and Allegiant, as well as extra charter service. Apparently both airports are a success story thus far. I don't know of any metropolitan region of 1.1 million people that has two commercial airports, both brand new, and both operating profitably. Granted it does help being a few minutes from Toronto.

Even though I promote more private dollars going into stadiums (and have no idea how much public money went into it here), Buffalo got a new downtown minor league baseball stadium in 1988 and a new NHL hockey arena in 1996, during the height of the economic problems.

The Thruway authority and the DOT have both finally invested into bridge repairs. The vast majority of the bridges around the 190, 290, and I-90 regional highways have all had major improvements since I've been here. It was pretty clear they hadn't been maintained in probably, but a lot of the Obama stimulus money was spent here rebuilding and refurbishing local highways.

FFW to today where Main Street is getting ripped up and rebuilt as we speak, and all NFTA Metro rail cars are being rebuilt.

The list really goes on and on. Buffalo may have been hit in the stomach very hard, falling to its feet. But its gotten back up and is moving forward.

Last edited by Dr Nevergold; Aug 14, 2013 at 10:43 AM.
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Old Posted Aug 22, 2013, 6:15 AM
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I've had this long desire to visit Buffalo. One day. It's very cool to see Buffalo doing well. The Avant building looks fantastic. And while I do like brutalist architecture (I know, I know), One Canalside brightens up the street scape. Anything else that you can link me to, article-wise about Buffalo's renaissance? Any cool neighborhood blogs or websites about a historic district or two?
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Old Posted Aug 23, 2013, 12:30 AM
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I've had this long desire to visit Buffalo. One day. It's very cool to see Buffalo doing well. The Avant building looks fantastic. And while I do like brutalist architecture (I know, I know), One Canalside brightens up the street scape. Anything else that you can link me to, article-wise about Buffalo's renaissance? Any cool neighborhood blogs or websites about a historic district or two?
Buffalo is great for many reasons, but partly because ~65% of the housing stock (city) was built pre-1940, so there's many architectural gems to be found. This is also owing to the fact that it was the 8th largest city in the US in its heyday.

Another recent article on the city's rebound is this one in the NY Times

check out Buffalo Rising, arguably THE best Buffalo blog.

also if you're a history nerd like me you'll enjoy the comprehensive history found on Buffalo as An Architectural Museum

cheers
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