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Shea's Seneca to shine again in South Buffalo

There is much talk about the development taking place around Larkinville, but now the other end of Seneca Street is taking shape. Schneider Development plans to invest $9 million into the now vacant 48,000-square-foot historic building at 2178 Seneca Street in what is hoped to spark more revitalization.

Located at the corner of Cazenovia Street in South Buffalo, the property was originally a moviehouse and entertainment venue built by Michael Shea - yes, the same Shea who built Shea's Performing Arts Center, the North Park Theatre in North Buffalo and a handful of other theaters that have been demolished over the years.

"There is activity along the strip now, but it just hasn't jelled the way some of our other commercial strips in the city have, like Elmwood and Hertel Avenue. But it's got all the ingredients in place. It'll take on its own identity and its own character, and I think you're going to find other developers making investments."

President Jake Schneider says the property still contains original architectural character, including its terra cotta facade, ticket vestibule and ornate castings adorning a two-and-a-half-story barrel vaulted ceiling movie theater lobby. With the help of New York State historic preservation tax credits, he says the revitalized property will combine history with new features.

Upon completion, the property will feature 25 apartments, a 130-seat community theater, a banquet and events facility, as well as storefront small businesses.

Schneider says the project has support from local lawmakers and neighboring Mercy Hospital and Olmsted Parks Conservancy. It also is backed by a neighborhood strategic plan developed by the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, that includes new gateway signage and streetscapes - similar to Larkinville - where residents can express their pride in South Buffalo and other developers will invest.

"Three young firemen, they go by the name of Hook and Ladder Development, are involving themselves in the purchase of smaller properties in that area, and Carl Paladino has purchased the school on Buffum, which is right behind our property. Carl Friesland is working on two school projects to put housing in, so it's a new day."

Schneider says construction is expected to start next spring and be completed in 2018.