And now we wait…

Back in August I wrote about the possibility that the empty St. Margaret’s school building could be sold and turned into a high end residential development. If you haven’t had a chance to read through the details, please click here.

This morning, I spoke with Fr. Joe Wolf from St. Margaret’s and asked for a quick update. He was happy to oblige and his response was just what I wanted to hear. Both parties (presumably St. Margaret’s Church or the Diocese of Buffalo along with Iskalo Development Corp.) have signed the contract for the sale.

We – and I say “we” purposefully as this transaction is for the entire community, not just those involved directly – are now in the midst of the 60 day inspection period. That means Iskalo is able to fully inspect the property to identify any problems or concerns that could void the deal. They have the opportunity to back out if something detrimental arises as part of that inspection. Fr. Joe went on to say however, that the inspection process is going well so far.

Fingers crossed. Stay tuned.

Oh, and Go Bills!


A Splash of Color for A Taste of Thai

Here’s the Taste of Thai façade earlier this year:

Taste of Thai Before

Nothing to complain about, but here’s a shot of it today:

taste of thai after 2

A bold new look quickly gave some pop to the streetscape. I nearly rear-ended the car in front of me while staring it down on my way to work one morning. As a marketing person, I appreciate what a fresh and colorful look can do to anything. In my opinion, this new look works well.

It also reminded me that I’m long overdue for some “Pud Thai.”

A friend of mine, Kevin Arnold, was just as impressed. “I also love the Taste of Thai make-over that happened last week” he said as we were chatting about all things Buffalo. “It’s a great example of simple, small-scale improvements that can have a big impact on the neighborhood.”

Couldn’t agree more. Which business is next?

Saved by the Bell (Tower)

This was the scene at 375 Colvin Ave. back in March.

Not depicted in this video was the anguish on the part of the nearby residents. Buffalo neighbors were reverting back to “yesterday’s mindset” and began worrying about what could become of the property. Fears loomed that the land would remain an empty construction site for years to come or a gas station or convenient store would set up shop on the prominent corner that once served as a community gathering place.

None of those scenarios would have been good for any of us, so I guess there was reason for concern. But this is the new Buffalo, and this blog is, if nothing else, positive and optimistic. So when I heard that the owner of the company that was demolishing the church bought the property and actually had plans for it, I wasn’t pessimistic, I was ecstatic.

Sam DeFranks, owner of Apollo Dismantling Services and former North Buffalo resident, said he fell in love with the property, especially the towering steeple that can be seen from blocks away. So much that he decided to leave the tower standing and began working on a way to incorporate it into his plan for a high end apartment complex.

Here’s what he came up with:



parking ebtry

Pretty awesome if you ask me. Actually, no. Not just pretty awesome. Fricken’ incredible!

At a community meeting on September 18th, hosted by Mr. DeFranks, he shared the above renderings, provided details of the project and fielded questions from the residents. Some highlights include:

  • 14 one bedroom, 26 two bedroom units
  • One dedicated parking space per unit along with bike storage
  • The tower is restored and incorporated into the design
  • Central, second level courtyard area for residents
  • Garbage facilities are enclosed/concealed
  • Future option to convert to condos

CourtyardTo my delight (and I’m sure to Mr. DeFranks’), there was just overwhelming support for this project. Coupling this great news with free pizza made this one of the best community meetings I’ve been a part of.

Minor requests that the parking lot be gated and the premises contain ample foliage were welcomed by Mr. DeFranks, and no concern was left on the table. He expects the rest of the city and construction “paperwork” to take them into the winter months and he hopes to break ground on the tentatively named “Bell Tower Lofts” in early spring. Time to complete would be about a year.

This project along with the proposal for St. Margaret’s School could bring upwards of 100 more people living in the heart of the Hertel Avenue district, all while restoring the vitality of such prominent landmarks.  Yet another reason to love what’s going on in North Buffalo!

The Times are a Changin’ on Hertel Ave.

We heard a rumor around the time we were waiting to close on our house in early 2011 that the former Accessories on the Avenue shop was going to become a Spot Coffee. It was a grueling summer watching and waiting, but it happened as promised and I’m now regularly wired with caffeine and happily contributing to the Spot Coffee share price.

spot hertelBut putting aside my selfish desire for a coffee fix, the opening of Spot Coffee started a bit of a movement on Hertel Ave. Coffee shops attract people, and people are what other businesses need to succeed. Since that time we’ve enjoyed quite the boom in my opinion.

Here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head list of new or expanded places that have popped up in the past few years:

    • Blue Hill Kitchen & Home
    • Blue Collar Men’s ShopMes Que
    • Chic and Sweet
    • Canvas@1206
    • CRAVing
    • Village Beer Merchant
    • Globe Market
    • Mes Que
    • Caramici’s Bistro & Bakery
    • House of Olives
    • La Tavola
    • Encompass Coffee
    • Vasilis Express

And on the docket for later this year, Belsito.

Colvin EstatesWhile I stuck to strictly Hertel Ave. locations in the above list, I think it’s noteworthy to also mention the new Colvin Estates housing development (Rachel Vincent Way) that’s nearing the completion of phase one, as well as the partial demolition and residential plans of the former Korean Methodist Church (Colvin & Tacoma).

There’s also hope and secret plans in the works for the two schools that closed down. And I’m sure I’m forgetting some other places or newsworthy plans, but I suppose having too many things to list is a great problem.

All in all, it’s been an incredible 2+ years for Hertel Ave. It’s an exciting time to live and play in North Buffalo and I just wanted to post this to say how awesome that it is.

let the good times roll

A Taste of Italy with a Touch of Buffalo to Boot

So I really love where I live (but I bet you knew that already).

But for me, it just keeps getting better. On the heels of the announcement from St. Margaret’s about the proposal to convert the former elementary school into high end apartments, I had the opportunity to step inside the corner building across the street to learn of its future as well.

GinosRight now it’s just a clean, empty space, but come October the once home to Gino’s Bakery at Hertel and Saranac will become Salumeria Belsito, an Italian eatery and bar.

I’m sorry, did someone say capicola? On the corner of my street? That’s a match made in Italian meat heaven if I do say so myself.

A gentleman by the name of Michael Petrillo is joining the movement taking place in Buffalo. Enamored by Buffalo’s latest unique restaurant gems such as Mes Que and Butterwoods in the Hotel Lafayette, and driven by a lifelong desire to be a positive part of the Buffalo community, Michael is setting out to provide as-fresh-as-it-gets Italian food in an atmosphere that’s authentic and approachable.

The idea for this salumeria came from a restaurant in Baltimore that Michael visited during his time living there. Similarly, Michael’s restaurant will feature a precision hand-crank slicer, but will also boast an old school deli case, a fine cappuccino maker and very traditional décor (sorry, there won’t be any pictures of Tony Soprano or John Gotti on the walls).

At its base, the menu will offer an impressive selection of Italian charcuterie, fresh bread, cheeses, paninis, Italian wine and Buffalo beer – and it will continually evolve to cater to its patrons. But most importantly, Michael hopes to deliver an experience, not just of eating and drinking, but tasting, learning, talking and enjoying.

He anticipates the restaurant being referred to simply as Belsito, named after the small town of Montemaggiore Belsito in Italy where his paternal grandmother’s family is from. He hopes it will bring some of the same charm as that small town as well. In talking with Michael, I get the sense that he wants nothing more than for the people of Buffalo to enjoy his restaurant, to share great times with each other, and to hopefully tell a few people to stop in as well. With this being at the corner of my street, he’s got one customer already.

Stay tuned, more details and pictures coming soon.