How Would You Invest 1 Million Dollars In Buffalo?

Pretend a magic genie gave you the chance to invest 1 million dollars, and you have to devote all of it back into the city of Buffalo. How would you tackle this task and what would type of spending would you partake in?

If you decide to invest all the money with the idea of return on investment (ROI), then all profits you make from the investment are yours to keep. This hypothetical position excites me and there are plenty of options to think about.

I have thought about this a lot recently. Many investors are placing money into the Queen City, its buildings and its future. I just want to have some fun and pretend as if I am in on the action. Could I transform the city? What type of lasting impact or influence could I make? Would I be business savvy enough to get a solid ROI off my initial investment?

Unfortunately, in real life, I’m not in a position to invest a million dollars, and I don’t know of any magic genies willing to make me a millionaire. Regardless, I’ll share a few of my ideas in this theoretical situation, as to how I would invest my money.

Please keep in mind I have no business background. I’ve never taken a business class, invested actual money or run my own business. My numbers could be way off and my projections might be grossly inaccurate. The point of this post is not to prove how unrealistic my ideas are. I present them in the spirit of excitement.

A Few Transportation Transformations

The idea of a gondola popped up a last spring. Buffalo Rising shared the idea, and I have to admit I was

NFTA Metro Rail Buffalo NY

The existing Metro Rail along Main Street in Buffalo

very intrigued. A gondola is a great way to utilize the existing space and offer options to entertain tourists and residents alike all year long.

Public transportation within the city of Buffalo certainly has challenges, especially getting from North Buffalo to Downtown in a timely manner. Not to mention our single line railway and lack of taxis makes it difficult to get from one part to the other.

The Skyway Gondola project wouldn’t necessarily solve all those issues, but it might kick start an overhaul on how we look at transportation within the city. Passing through the bureaucratic process withstanding, privatizing this type of transportation and charging a nominal fee to ride might recoup some money, or at least, make it profitable down the line.

For this particular situation, let’s concentrate a little more on getting from one part of the city to another. The Buffalo Metro Rail pales in comparison to other major cities’ railways across the country.

I’d invest some money into some sort of expansion project. It’s about time we look into expanding the public transit system. At the very least, get more than just buses and taxis going all the way out to the airport.

Is a million dollars enough to pull something like this off? No way, but some serious research and planning with the million could get this thing rolling. Let’s get some rail out to Elmwood Village or Larkin Square. Imagine going from Buffalo State to Hydraulic Hearth without having to drive through rush hour traffic and construction or suffering the pains of trying to find parking.

This hypothetical is more of a longshot, but it would really transform the way people think about Buffalo – where to live in the city or suburbs, places they could work, and ultimately enjoy themselves traveling around.

I might also point to things like the Chicago Loop Link project currently underway for inspiration, which will create designated – and in some areas, protected (curbs, etc.) – bus lanes for rapid transit as a cheaper alternative to trains, especially when buildings limit what’s possible.

Preservation and Restoration

Developers are snatching up buildings left and right around the city. It’s a great time to be in the Buffalo real estate market, and I want in!

My contributing idea with my magical Pegula genie money: I’d take the million dollars and invest in a

Larkinville Building

Available building in Larkinville

few smaller commercial buildings. Restore them, repair them, do whatever I have to do to in order to make them viable for businesses to move in, profitable for all those who might inhabit the space, and uniquely eye-appealing to the passersby.

In my scenario, I’d love to target real estate areas around Larkinville, Niagara Street and the blocks between Ellicott and Main Street from Virginia to Broadway. I think these places specifically need as much additional investment as they can get. Most parts of the Nickel City are becoming rejuvenated in their own right, but larger investment and increased building transformation could put them over the top. Restoration provides affordable housing or new places to house popular bars to support the brewing and distilling boons (Resurgence, Big Ditch, Flying Bison.) The old architecture lends itself to the wave of tech startups that love old buildings and rustic, chic spaces. We could transform these areas into community hot spots – a place where the city could broadcast free Wi-Fi and community services access, with rentals to the public and tours of what life was like in the bygone era?

Larkinville Overhead

Overhead View of a Vacant Building in Larkinville

I also like the idea of adding in spaces that are residential. After all, getting more people living in the city and trafficking around the newly constructed areas on a consistent basis is important. However, the prospect of bringing business or commerce to certain areas of the city intrigues me just as much.

Let’s Get Creative

How about a new restaurant, a bar or retail location?

Those are all fun ideas, but they’re not for me. In my opinion, these creations are tough to pull off on their own. Entertainment venues will continue to pop up, and in the end, do not add anything remarkably different to what we are already experiencing in Buffalo. Our city is already seeing it with new places coming to life on a monthly basis.

I lived in St. Louis for a year, and they have a park in their downtown core I always thought was a great idea. The Citygarden is a unique blend of art, water features, horticulture, and history.

“Framed by office towers, the two formerly vacant blocks have metamorphosed into Citygarden — a vibrant and serene blending of lush plantings and internationally renowned sculpture with delights of water, stone, architecture and design. “

It’s a great spot, and when I used to walk through it, I thought, “How cool would something like this be in Buffalo?”

Main Street Buffalo

A View of Buffalo From Proposed City Garden Parcel

It’s not significantly different than Wilkerson Point, Canalside or parts of Delaware Park, but I’d want to take it to another level. Tie it into our transportation problem – it could become a good central hub for radiating in and out of downtown and easily accessible from Allentown, the 33 and downtown. While also keeping an opening park space view. Let’s incorporate the community, adding an open air space, with playful sprinklers and wading pools in the summer for children to play and cool down. This specific million-dollar spending scenario, there is a parcel of land at the corner of Main and Edward streets, behind a Schmidt’s Collision and Glass. I’m not sure if it is vacant, but if available, I’d target this area. Experience beautiful views of downtown buildings. It would be a nice central location for such a project. People of all ages and locations could come to enjoy it. ECC students could go and study; residents could go to read a book or stroll around. A short walk away is the theater district, which is going under recent renovations and additions itself. Together, this area could help bridge the gap between downtown and the medical campus.

An additional tie in for the “City of Light” would be to partner with Ambiances Design Productions, who are already working on a lighting project with the ECHDC and the grain elevators.

Overhead of Main and Edward

Overhead View of Land for City Garden.

I’m sure people have much different views on how they would spend their million bucks, than the few ideas I came up with. Looking into the future, I’d like to see what comes up next and what other people would think to do. Whatever comes to our flourishing area, Buffalo still has the potential for many amazing projects in the near future.

Join the conversation. Leave us your thoughts in the Comments and maybe we’ll see some of the ideas make their way to City Hall. Terry, if you’re reading, these ideas would be an awesome follow up to Harbor Center.

Written by Phil


Buffalo, NY. Bills Fanatic. Queen City Romantic. Vegan. Tattooed Professional. St. Bonaventure Grad. #XVX

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