Best Building Makeover
PHOTO BY KC KRATT
This one was a long time coming. Though it has been occupied to some degree over the years, South Buffalo’s grand movie palace, built in 1929 by William Spann for impresario Michael Shea, lost most of its original luster in the seventies, when its large auditorium was demolished. Thanks to Schneider Development, however, the complex has been brought back to life in a restoration/reuse project started in 2015 and completed this year. The lobby has been returned to its original glory, ready for special events, while storefronts and apartments fill the rest of the structure, in a transformation fully embraced by the surrounding community.
2178 Seneca Street; 923-7000, schneiderdevelopmentservices.com
Best Looking New Building
Linwood/Lafayette Apartments, People Inc.
Any new construction on Linwood has a high bar to meet: Linwood is lined with some of Buffalo’s most distinctive residential architecture and is now a historic district. It’s not surprising that the first designs for this thirty-seven-unit senior apartment building were met with some critical feedback from neighbors, but revisions were made and the result is a stately facility, with inviting balconies and other welcome amenities, including green space, a courtyard, and 24/7 emergency service. Kudos to Long Associate Architects, TM Montante Construction, and, of course, stellar social services agency People Inc. for this development win.
637 Linwood Avenue; 880-3890, people-inc.org
Best Mixed-Use Development
Chandler Street projects
A new destination to eat, drink, shop, and play is emerging in Black Rock. So far, there’s a brewery, a salon, a gym, a cidery, a pickling palace, and a pizzeria, but much more is planned by Rocco Termini’s Signature Development for the cluster of former industrial structures on Chandler Street. We’re guessing a choice between Larkinville and Chandlerville will be the new date night conundrum.
Best New Construction
City Mission Expansion
The current City Mission expansion could as easily be called a block takeover (in the most positive of ways) along East Tupper Street at East North Street. Designed by local architectural and engineering firm Carmina Wood Morris, the $15-million construction project, which broke ground in September 2018, will be a community center for the city’s homeless population with 75,000 square feet allocated for overnight lodging and emergency housing. Included in the plans are drop-in medical and psychological services clinics, the former run by Jericho Road Community Health Center. Slated for completion in 2020, the four-story structure will also provide transitional housing with a computer lab, classroom spaces, and food and clothing pantries—all while still serving meals 365 days a year.
100 East Tupper Street; 854-8181, buffalocitymission.org
Best Preservation Project
Darwin and Isabelle Martin’s summer home in Derby is often overlooked amid the Martin House buzz, but it’s time for serious attention to be paid. More than ninety-five percent of all necessary restoration has been completed on the dramatically situated property, both inside and out. When you consider that only a couple decades ago, the architecture was obscured by unsympathetic additions and endangered by poor maintenance, this is a huge accomplishment. It was recognized this year by both the Preservation League of New York State and Preservation Buffalo Niagara.
6472 Old Lake Shore Road, Derby; 947-9217, experiencegraycliff.org
Best Public Art
Hertel Avenue Murals
PHOTO BY J.P. THIMOT
Hertel Avenue from Colvin to Starin has become an outdoor gallery of vibrant, selfie-ready murals by an array of artists. Mosey along the avenue and check out Casey Milbrand’s Lookin’ Good on the side of CRAVing Restaurant, Bunnie Reiss’s Magic Buffalo wrapping Joe’s Deli at Colvin, and Rory Allen’s tribute to Gord Downie, late of Tragically Hip fame, on Hertel Liquor Library’s shop. And be sure to not miss Chuck Tingley and Matthew Grote’s (Ogre) fantastical collaboration weego at 1503. The murals have been sponsored by local businesses, the North Buffalo Organization, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery public art team; they are a stunning visual treat along this successful urban destination.
Best Sight You Won’t See Anywhere But Here
Robert Indiana Sculptures on the Outer Harbor
Make no mistake: These ten massive Cor-Ten sculptures would create an indelible impact no matter where they were placed. Officially titled NUMBERS ONE Through ZERO, each number is eight feet high. Perched in a semicircle on Wilkeson Pointe, their drama is increased by the backdrop of Lake Erie, several grain elevators, and the Skyway. The stuff of which selfies are made, you can also stand on them, sit on them, and look through them. The beautiful rusty patina of the Cor-Ten allows the sculptures to interact in subtle ways with their environment, avoiding the clash that more typically Pop primary coloring might have. Don’t let the summer go by without visiting them; they leave the waterfront at the end of September. This is another stunning public art placement by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Best Storefront Display
PHOTO BY STEPHEN GABRIS
A recent move to busier section of Elmwood throws the spotlight squarely on the great stuff that co-owners Jon Eisenberg and Joe Stocker are doing with their bespoke and (expanding) ready-to-wear men’s shop in the Elmwood Village. With artist/designer David Mitchell as part of their team (his hot red lips mural on the north side of their building is an Instagram hit), the cleverly divided space is a hip destination for men of all ages to get measured and fit for a custom shirt, pants, or suit. Check out the line of Bureau-branded items, like handsome leather weekend bags, pocket squares, and pillows.
712 Elmwood Avenue; 259-8141, bureaumade.com
Beulah’s General Store
Owner Heather Sprague, calling herself the CEB (chief executive Beulah), set out to create a modern take on a general store, inspired by historic Roycroft artisan and East Aurora merchant Beulah Hood. She’s done just that: the charming little store, steps from the gigantic Vidler’s, contains an array of items that reflect her taste in athleisurewear, and her sense of humor (PG-13 for many of the sassy kitchen towels and socks). The cute storefront features a rotating display of gifts, artisan items, and bath/body products all channeled through her vision of the shop as a warm gathering place.
726 Main Street, East Aurora; 714-9322, beulahsgeneralstore.com
Best Sustainable Project
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Habitat Projects
Everyone is a winner when there’s a healthy landscape, and that’s what we all, who have grown all too accustomed to being surrounded by concrete and asphalt, need to keep in mind. Over the decades, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has grown from a one-river cleanup group to an organization with the mission to restore and protect all of Western New York’s water and surrounding ecosystems. Its current Living Shorelines project is an excellent example of how land bordering water can be restored to a condition where it can support both wildlife and human recreation in a sustainable fashion.
Best Waterfront Renovation
Removal of Robert Moses Parkway from Niagara Falls (Main Street to Findlay Drive)
It’s difficult to enjoy the waterfront when a wide strip of barely used expressway is in the way. The fact that the waterfront in question includes a beloved American natural wonder testifies to the arrogance of New York Power Authority head Robert Moses and his midcentury times. Cars and fuel were valued over people. These priorities are now being slightly adjusted, with the return of two miles of Niagara River waterfront (from downtown Niagara Falls to DeVeaux State Park) to parkland and pedestrian amenities.
Best Wildlife Habitat Project
Forest Lawn Cemetery
While the cemetery probably doesn’t consider itself in the middle of a wildlife project, in effect, it has become one of the most reliable places to see local and visiting wildlife in Western New York. Besides several herds of deer, the cemetery is a stopping place for beautiful migrating birds and home to hawks, herons, owls, and many other species. A recent visitor made the news, which prompted SPCA director Gina Browning to say, “The fact that coyotes are even there shows that Forest Lawn is a thriving wildlife habitat.”
1411 Delaware Avenue; forest-lawn.com
Best Public Art (Indoors)
Metro Rail art
We can’t always give kudos to the maintenance of Metro Rail’s public art program, which has been in place for three decades now, but it is still the best place to see impressive indoor public art installations for free. Our favorites: Joyce Kozloff’s mosaics in Humboldt-Hospital, Robert Lobe’s sculpture in Amherst, and Craig Langager’s mysterious figures in Utica.
Best Public Garden
Erie Basin Marina Test Garden
Think of these gardens as a type of fashion show, signaling what the hot new plants will be for 2020 and 2021. Since 1970, seed and plant companies like Ball and Proven Winners have been sending new introduction to Buffalo, to see how they will withstand the conditions of the Buffalo waterfront. That is why there are beautiful flower beds and planters all along the Marina every summer. For many decades, horticulturalist Stan Swisher has been in charge of the program; he does a magnificent job.
Best Use of Taxpayer Dollars
Rails to Trails
Located mostly in the North Buffalo and Tonawanda areas, with a stretch in Cheektowaga, Western New York’s growing Rails to Trails infrastructure has been getting glowing reviews from walkers, joggers, and bicyclists since the first completions in 2016. Extensions of this trail system are planned, including a new, twenty-seven-mile multi-use trail connecting Orchard Park, Aurora, West Falls, Springville, Colden, Concord, and West Valley. Check this website for all the WNY Rails to Trails.
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