Potential changes in store for major projects in WNY post-pandemic


AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – Changes are in store for virtually every workplace as Western New Yorkers adapt to a new normal.

The landscape for commercial real estate is evolving and so are some big business and retail projects planned for our area.

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted our world.

Things we never thought we could do at-home are now a reality.

That’s caused businesses to re-think how they’ll operate once the pandemic is over.

The CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, announced last week that all employees can work from home – forever.

It prompts the question: What does the future of commercial real estate look like in Western New York?

Could office buildings remain empty?

“Certainly that whole scene is going to be changing. There are a lot of unknowns about what’s going to be happening with office space going forward. The feeling is people who rent 10,000 square feet might only need 7,500 or 5,000 square feet with everyone working remotely,” said Bill Heussler, a branch manager for Hanna Commercial Real Estate.

Heussler says landlords will have to create more space for social distancing.

Since the pandemic, businesses have been asking for rent forgiveness and landlords are working with them.

Heussler says to expect a decrease in future rental costs because of the large supply and little demand.

Change is also taking place downtown at Seneca One.

This week, Seneca one announced future construction at the front of the building to reduce the wind.

They hope it encourages people to use the plaza as leisure.

But what about the people who work inside the tower?

“They got to be analyzing their plans to see how many people they really need or are they going to be working remotely? It’s just a big unknown right now. Hopefully they’ll keep moving forward. That’s one of the bright spots of revitalizing downtown,” said Heussler.

Another bright spot is in Amherst, at the corner of one of Western New York’s busiest intersections.

It’s the site of what will be known as “Station 12”.

Construction is scheduled to start again in the next few days.

However, town leaders say the model for what we’ll see develop will likely change.

“Covid is going to change a lot of principals for the town of Amherst. We know that moving forward,” said Amherst Town Supervisor, Brian Kulpa.

A number of popular upscale retailers like LL Bean, William Sonoma and Banana Republic are slated to occupy space.

“If they need to add housing components or something along those lines to ensure the project can move forward, then we’re going to ask if there are ways that the town can help to do that and change the focus in that plaza area,” said Kulpa.

Station 12 was scheduled to open in the Spring of next year, but that will likely be pushed to the fall of 2021.

Kulpa anticipates revenue fall offs in some major plazas.

But he’s hopeful Station 12 can pull through, making its mark in history as a success post-pandemic.

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