Reported by Matthew Hartrich, Regional Development Specialist at Buffalo Niagara Partnership
Over the past few years, Downtown Buffalo has seen a steadily growing stream of private investment begin to redefine and refocus its position in the region. Decades of underinvestment, coupled with the traditional issues that add to the cost of adaptive reuse projects, have left many developers relatively reticent to roll the dice or unable to make Downtown adaptive reuse projects financially feasible. Nonetheless, a growing contingent of developers are taking note of the unrealized potential.
The ULI Western New York Young Leaders Group met up Rocco Termini, the principle pioneers of this wave of Downtown redevelopment, for a walking tour of some of his properties, including the Hotel Lafayette. As our chapter’s second event, we were pleasantly surprised to receive over 65 people at such an early hour.
The tour began at Rocco’s Ellicott Commons development – a mixed-use project laid in and around others Rocco has erected within a contiguous half-block. Assuming roles as both developer and retail financer, Rocco not only developed the space, but acted where banks wouldn’t by providing the up front equity financing needed for these businesses to get up and running.
The tour stopped at a number of his projects – each having their own unique history, story, and financing dynamics. The Oak School Lofts, formerly a Buffalo Public Schools reform school, is now home to 29 lofts and 8,000 sq ft of office space. It was also the first project in the country to couple Historic Tax Credits and New Markets Tax Credits.
Constructed in 1904, the iconic red brick Hotel Lafayette, an immaculate example of French Renaissance style, was the work of female architect Louis Blanchard Bethune. Once considered to be one of the top 15 hotels in the country, Rocco is currently undertaking a $42 million dollar overhaul of the 275,000 sq ft Buffalo landmark Rocco’s dynamic proforma brings together 8 different lending sources along with a plethora of programs, grants, incentives, tax credits, and so forth.