Seeking to advance development already underway along Main Street in Buffalo, city officials hope to transform the LaSalle subway station and seven acres of surrounding land into a mix of first-floor housing and retail, with an attractive streetscape and public space.
Following statements made during Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown’s State of the City address, the city issued a “request for qualifications” on Friday, seeking developers interested in such a project and with the expertise, the financial ability and track record to take it.
The city and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority do not specify any requirements as to the exact nature of the project – or the type or number of dwellings to be created. Instead, the application sets out their vision for an “equitable, transit-oriented development” that would include “affordable and/or mixed-income housing” and “an enabled first floor.”
“We wanted to know who might be interested and qualified to complete a complex project like this on a combined seven-acre site,” said Buffalo Development Manager Lisa Hicks. “We are partnering with NFTA because some of the plots are owned by NFTA, as well as the station itself. It is a very difficult and complicated site, due to past use.”
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The Metro Rail station would remain and be incorporated into the development, just as the Allen Street station was incorporated into the new University at Buffalo Medical School.
Mayor Byron Brown’s $568 million spending plan for 2022-23 recommends raising residential property taxes by 5% and commercial property taxes by 6.6%.
The effort to revitalize the drab beige cement station and surrounding land represents the latest attempt to encourage denser residential development around transit infrastructure. The idea is to provide more housing and retail options for city dwellers without stimulating the need for more cars and more pollution.
This has happened in recent years along the Main Street spine, not only in downtown Buffalo, but also with projects such as The Grid by Cedarland Development, Fenton Apartments by Sinatra & Co. Real Estate , Bethune Lofts of Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. and several other completed and ongoing projects. It’s all part of more than $8 billion in development investments in the city since 2012.
The city wants to encourage more, especially as the NFTA explores a subway extension to Amherst’s North Campus. At the same time, Brown cited the goal of ensuring that 40% of housing in Buffalo is considered “affordable,” so city residents aren’t left behind by growth.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to be able to do that,” Hicks said.
LaSalle is one of six metro station areas that have been selected for broader planning. Authorities target six plots on Main and Beard Avenue – three city-owned and three NFTA-owned – which make up the larger LaSalle Station property, including the station itself and the adjacent park-and-ride lot.
The plots are located at 3000, 3010, 3018, 3030, and 3036 Main, as well as 447 Beard.
The application says the site is near Shoshone and McCarthy parks, a Rails-to-Trails path from North Buffalo to the city of Tonawanda and the University of Buffalo’s South Campus, as well as numerous restaurants. , retail stores and a grocery store.
“The site has the potential to significantly improve the attractiveness and accessibility of the University Heights neighborhood,” the city wrote in the application.
Hicks said the city and the NFTA — in conjunction with Local Initiatives Support Corp. and GoBikeBuffalo – would work with potential developers to engage the community and “determine the highest and best usage for development”. While city officials would like to see mixed housing, the outcome will be shaped by community feedback and needs, she said.
“We wanted to allow some flexibility because we’re not waiting for the plan to be submitted in any way,” she said.