Buffalo Central Terminal, NY — Advisory Services Panel
July 11, 2017
Date: June 25 – 30, 2017
Location: Buffalo, NY
Sponsor: The Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, the City of Buffalo, and Empire State Development Corporation.
Subject Area: Adaptive Reuse
Panel Chair: Michael Stern, MASPlaces, Jackson Hole, WY
Background and Panel Assignment
The historic New York Central Terminal complex, better known as Buffalo Central Terminal, has sat vacant and virtually abandoned since last train departed in 1979. Subsequent decades have been unkind to facility as 64 acre site was divided into multiple ownerships, two of which included in this study, portions of structure removed, interior fabric and elements defaced or stolen, and generally exposed to weather and vandals. Despite this deteriorated state the complex continues to attract thousands of visitors and volunteer hours yearly in hopes of restoring the architectural gem to relevance. In 1997 after nearly two years of abandoned Central Terminal Restoration Corporation was formed with intention of restoring facility, however with limited funding and 100% volunteer efforts only modest progress at best can be made and expected. While volunteers have made tremendous strides in stabilization of facility nearly 30 years of deferred maintenance paired with growing optimism in the city’s and region’s recent renaissance has encouraged the organization to create a serious development framework for sustainable restoration of facility and adjoining parcels. The panel was asked the following questions:
- From a market and neighborhood revitalization perspectives, what would be the most appropriate and/or desirable mix of uses at the complex and estimated square footages/acreages?
- Given the scale and complexity of the complex, what is a logical sequence of next steps for Central Terminal? What needs to happen first to activate the space? What would be a rational phasing strategy for incorporating improvements/uses into the entire complex to allow for a gradual rehabilitation/reuse effort—in light of issues like physical conditions in various portions of the complex, market opportunities, and/or other considerations?
- What would be the menu of options for financing (and rough estimates of possible funding levels for each) for a phased rehab/redevelopment—inclusive of private financing; historic, brownfield, and new market tax credits; foundation assistance; public assistance; etc.—and what would be a recommended strategy/pro-forma/capital stack for securing/implementing such financing mechanisms?
- Considering the historic importance of the complex, what would be the best legal structure for the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation (CRTC) to allow long-term reuse of space at the complex (e.g., sale, long-term lease, etc.)? What are the advantages/disadvantages of each structure? Is it feasible for CRTC to remain in some ownership position?
- Assuming a portion of finance package would include both public and private investment, what other legal structures would be required to allow for both private and public sector funds/tax credits to be invested into the project?
- Given that transportation has played a critical role in the history of the complex, can future bus/rail public transit or passenger/freight rail programming serve as a useful tool in a redevelopment scheme? What transportation modes and facilities might benefit and contribute to a reuse effort?
- Ensuring historic integrity of the Central Terminal property, especially character defining elements, is central to the stewardship role of CTRC. What would be the best means and methods of ensuring such integrity is preserved in perpetuity?
- Residential programming is regularly discussed in conjunction with re-development efforts; what types of residential uses might be a reasonable component of an adaptive reuse strategy (if any), in consideration of regional market factors, the existing neighborhood fabric, access to employment centers, etc.?
- Relationship of the complex to the neighborhood, city, and region is critical to understanding the community’s affinity for the complex. What are best means for continuing to encourage/foster this relationship into the future? What specific strategies at the complex could proactively complement neighborhood revitalization efforts? Conversely, what needs to happen in the surrounding neighborhood to complement and sustain the revitalization of the Central Terminal in the broader context?
Summary of Key Recommendations
- Create a master plan and neighborhood plan to guide redevelopment and ensure future success.
- Use the new master plan to establish a phased renovation and development approach, but don’t wait to get started. The time is now for tactical interventions that bring ideas and interest to the project. This includes creating a year-round event venue.
- Do not focus on full restoration but instead stabilize the Central Terminal to prepare the complex for adaptive use and make it “shovel-ready” for the next wave of development.
Have the CTRC retain a role and ownership stake in any future development activities.
- Since the CTRC should not focus on full restoration, the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation should change its name to either the Central Terminal Reuse Corporation or, more simply, the Central Terminal Corporation.
- Create physical, economic, and emotional connections between the Central Terminal and the surrounding neighborhood—specifically to the Broadway Market and other local neighborhood institutions and initiatives.
- Use creative placemaking at the Central Terminal to better spur community engagement with the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, the city of Buffalo, and the broader Buffalo-Niagara region.
- Promote job creation for the neighborhood by bringing in new uses and activities from within and outside the neighborhood.
- Invest in the surrounding Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood to create value for future investment in the Central Terminal. Embrace the new “Green Code” and existing zoning to creatively use vacant land within the Broadway-Fillmore