We Make Buffalo

You may have heard of 43 North. The group responsible for the world’s largest international business idea competition. Their primary focus has been to attract startup businesses with innovative ideas and have them set up shop here and call Buffalo home. But the focus of 43 North isn’t just about giving money away. It’s about promoting what we’ve got, fostering continued growth, encouraging public support and celebrating everything that makes Buffalo such a desirable place to be.

A wide variety of home-grown, brick-and-mortar small businesses are driving just as much growth and hype as the flashy out-of-town tech startups. And Hertel Avenue is as great of an example as any area in the region to demonstrate the great array of local entrepreneurs we have right here.


All on one drag, the variety of shops and uniqueness of their offerings is astonishing. And these snapshots are just a random sampling of many more. These places are putting their stamp on the city. And quite frankly, their success is vital to our success.

So next time you’re out and about, give a nod to those business owners. Give them your support – because they need you as much as you need them. And together, We Make Buffalo.


Revisiting the Tower

It’s been a lonely two years for the corner of Colvin and Tacoma.

In that time we’ve seen a fire rage through the roof of the old church, a near full demolition, development plans announced, questions asked, hopes raised, and of course, skepticism.

In that time we’ve done a lot of waiting too. But as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Plans for the development have changed since 2013 but the plan to develop hasn’t.

I had a chance to chat with owner Sam DeFranks a few weeks back. As one of the closest neighbors to the property I have a very vested interest in what goes down there so I try and track him down every few months. Despite me being the least of his worries (maybe because I’m one of his biggest supporters), he always obliges.

He talked about how he’s been fielding many questions, concerns and recommendations from residents near and far. He shared what makes this so much of a process and we mutually griped about what the past two winters have done to our souls and to stall the project timelines.

Sam was also very forthcoming in discussing the project itself. They’ve moved onto a new architect and are modifying the layout and design of the complex. It’s likely the initial plan for 40 units will drop to 27 or 28, allowing for more square footage per unit, larger parking spaces, and less congestion around entry and egress. If all goes well, approvals are received and contracts get signed, we could see work beginning in the next month or two.

To me, it’s very clear that Sam is dead set on getting this project right, and making the Bell Tower Lofts (assuming that will remain the name) a highly sought after residential space.

I remain excited and optimistic. Can’t wait to see that first shovel in the ground!



Our Lonely Tower

There she stands. Quietly overlooking North Buffalo.

Lonely Tower

An empty plot of land surrounds her, and many months have passed since the former Korean Methodist Church sat in tact, keeping her company. It’s been even longer since there was activity at that corner.

To me, this nearly demolished space is a reminder of the “old Buffalo” – blighted and defeated. But, if you look at it from a different angle (and I suggest you do), this very tower symbolizes the movement we’re seeing all around town. One of promise, hope, and revitalization.

This tower is destined to return to glory. Just like those grain elevators downtown and the countless turn of the century warehouse buildings we’re seeing slowly reborn.

You may have read a prior blog of mine showing the plans to build high end apartments around the anchor tower. Time may have passed, but the plans haven’t changed.

The good folks at Saranac Central Block Association reached out to the owner of the planned development, Sam DeFranks, this month and got this update:

  • The project is moving forward but at a slower pace than planned. The harsh winter caused a series of delays for most contractors.
  • The design and intentions remain the same and the goal is to have foundations poured and framing/building shell construction start late this fall/early winter.

In general the following tasks will take place in the coming weeks:

  • Parking lot will be privatized and fenced/secured (by Halloween)
  • Job trailer will be located in parking lot (by Halloween)
  • Concrete foundations will commence (November)
  • Framing/shell construction will follow foundations

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Sam a few times and his position has always been the same. He’s excited for this project and for North Buffalo. He’s a bit apologetic for the length of time it’s taking to get a shovel in the ground. And most of all, he’s thankful for the patience and support of the community.

Hang in there folks, good things are ahead!

Tower photo courtesy of Chris Bordeleau Photography (@buffcleb). 

Getcha Popcorn Ready

Ok I’ll admit it. Prior to its closing this past May, I never saw a show in the historic North Park Theatre. Nor did I have the popcorn.

An admission worthy of heckling, sure. But hopefully I can keep my North Buffalo stripes because I felt as devastated as any lifelong patron when it went dark. Hertel Avenue without the North Park would be like Delaware Park without the Zoo.

MarquisBut the return to vibrancy is in full swing, as evidenced by the lighting of the restored marquis this past Friday. Look at the brilliance shown in this image from Kevin McDonough.

Buffalo Spree recently posted an article showing the below picture from the 20s or early 30s. Saving the history of this building is just emblematic of everything else going on in Buffalo these days.

Historical North Park

Wikipedia went on to tell me the theatre opened in 1920. I might be getting ahead of myself here, but I’m smelling a 100 year anniversary party…just like I’m smelling the popcorn.

I’m all in now and urge you to be as well.

If you haven’t yet, give a “like” to the North Park Theatre facebook page. They’ve been doing a great job sharing progress reports, stories of the theatre’s magical past, and plans for its next chapter.

And most notably, there is a fundraising sneak peek gala being held on Friday, December 27. Thanks and kudos to the new owners and theatre manager for making this happen.

Dash’s makes a dash for Kenmore Ave.

Say it isn’t so! Last week, Budwey’s Supermarkets announced their plans to sell their Kenmore Avenue grocery store to Dash’s Markets. With no need to operate two Dash’s stores in North Buffalo (Kenmore Ave. & Hertel Ave.), Dash’s will be closing their Hertel Avenue location. Say what?Store

Budwey’s employees in North Buffalo have been told Dash’s plans to spend upward of $2.5 million to upgrade the store, while its nearby store on Hertel Avenue will be closed.” – Buffalo News article from October 16th

Sure, I don’t do my MAIN grocery shopping at Dash’s on Hertel but I’m pretty much stopping there every week to fill in the gaps. “Filling in the gaps” translates into “Things I forgot at Wegmans” and today was no exception. It’s hard to make a tuna casserole without the tuna.

It’s also nice to not have to deal with the chaos at Wegmans when you only need three or four things. In fact my sanity depends on it. Now what am I going to do? Let’s be honest, their move to Kenmore Avenue is only a 1.2 mile detour and the new location is technically still within the North Buffalo city limits but the thought of a vacant building on Hertel Avenue never sits well with me.

Enter Lexington Co-op?