May 8, 2019

$5 million in renovations coming to Buffalo's Central Terminal

A tangible sign of development at the Central Terminal — the last architectural titan yet to be restored in Buffalo — will be announced today, raising hopes among its enthusiasts that even more improvements will come to the 1926 art deco marvel.

Thanks to $5 million in state funds, the waiting room and a former restaurant space located on the sides of the concourse will be rehabilitated for year-round use. Bathrooms will also be refurbished.

Other work to make the concourse more weather-tight and to add heating and ventilation systems is expected to get underway in the fall.

"This project not only will allow us to bring in more events for the East Side, but we think it will be a catalyst for the eventual redevelopment of the Central Terminal," said Jim Hycner, chairman of the nonprofit Central Terminal Restoration Corp., which has owned the building since 1997.

The focus on the concourse follows recommendations made in 2017 by the Urban Land Institute that called for more activities and events at the building as a way to jump-start interest for future development.

The restoration aims to extend the event season beyond the current April to October time frame and improve rental possibilities, Hycner said. About 30 events a year have been held in the Central Terminal.

First, an assessment of the spaces will help determine their uses.

"Our task is to define how the funds can be best spent to reinvigorate the facility to a point where it can be used and to spur future investment," said Robert Stark, a principal with CJS Architects.

A certificate of occupancy will be produced that will be helpful for planning future events.

The spaces to be renovated were once key features of the former railroad station, which at its peak saw 200 trains a day enter and depart.

The restaurant was ornate, with curved horseshoe counters and dining spaces on either side. Stark said a decision hasn't been made yet on whether there will be a working restaurant or even a renovated kitchen. Currently, caterers bring in food for events.

Inside Buffalo's Central Terminal, an art deco marvel in decay
The waiting room was another grand space in the Central Terminal's heyday.

Stark said he and CJS Architects are "absolutely thrilled" to be working on the Central Terminal.

"It is such a monumental building," Stark said. "We have been proponents of the restoration of the building for a while now. We can't wait to really jump in with both feet to see how we can assist them."

Last year, a $250,000 grant from Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes helped bring back commercial-grade power to the building for the first time since the building ceased to operate as a train station after 50 years in 1979.

Funding from Fillmore Council Member David Franczyk and donations from Harter Secrest & Emery and M&T Bank also brought LED lighting to the outside of the Central Terminal's tower and solar panels on the roof.

Originally published by Mark Sommer at the Buffalo News. 

$5 million in renovations coming to Buffalo's Central Terminal