BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The last train came through Central Terminal in 1979, but the 18-acre property could be redesigned to fit a new urban living model.
Millions of dollars from New York State are going to three revitalization projects in Buffalo, including the revamping of the Central Terminal. Leaders hope that restoring the historic building will anchor not only the Broadway-Fillmore area but the entire region.
“We’re looking for the Central Terminal to become a destination for this region again,” James Morrelle, vice-chair of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, said. “The Central Terminal is a beacon for the East Side, not just the Broadway-Fillmore area, but for all of the East Side.”
The Regional Revitalization Partnership is a multi-year initiative between Empire State Development, local communities and private partners. Buffalo is receiving $180 million for expansion projects on the East Side including more than $60 million for the Central Terminal, $37 million for the Broadway Market capital improvement project, and investments in the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor and Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, according to the Governor’s office.
Restoring the historic train hub will be costly. The corporation estimates it to be a $300 million project in total that will require both public and private funds.
A few years ago the corporation received $5 million as an initial investment from the state for the Central Terminal. This money went towards repairing the roof and other structural needs. They also used the money to draft a long-term plan for development.
“This is a huge building. We know we can fit a lot of uses. Some of the things that make sense. We know it is great for events and activities,” Monica Pellegrino Faix, executive director of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, added.
The corporation compares this project to Larkinville, but on a larger scale. The building could host office space, industry and even housing.
This investment by the state will jumpstart the multi-phased project and the next step is addressing safety inside the building.
“Once we’re able to stabilize this parking area, redo the Great Lawn, the concourse area and the lunch area, it will be reactivated and we can start bringing individuals into this area,” Morrelle said. “All it starts with one investment and we’ve got that investment in the $61 million.”
The public-private partnership focuses on three pillars: fostering small businesses, investing in placemaking and preparing the workforce, according to the Governor’s Office. This investment was a part of a larger sum of money from New York State that will benefit Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester. The state committed $200 million, as outlined in the Executive Budget. The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and other partners provided $81 million while the remaining $19 million will come from local governments.
Re-building the East Side has been top of mind for many leaders, especially following the Tops mass shooting that left the area without a grocery store.
“The events have really been a great sorrow and sadness for us and have really built our resolve to continue our efforts long term to be an amenity and an asset for this community as well as this region,” Pellegrino Faix added.
With input from the community, the restoration team feels confident bringing back this beacon, making it a valuable asset to Buffalo.
“It was a part of me. I grew up not far from here and I still own property in this neighborhood, so I’m in this neighborhood quite a bit. Now to be part of the restoration and to bring this project forward, it’s going to be great,” Morrelle said.
Corporation leaders say they do not know when the next phase of construction will begin, but they hope it can get underway soon. Once the building is structurally sound, they are hoping a developer will partner with them to finish the project. They will begin recruiting private partners once the construction starts.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.