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Buffalo Place considers expanding marketing district, charging new property owners

Chris Caya, WBFO News

As COVID-19 drains the coffers of many municipalities and businesses, Buffalo Place has begun to discuss broadening their borders, and assessing their service fees on a bigger base of downtown Buffalo property owners.

At their Wednesday morning session, board members established a committee to look at growing the size of the downtown marketing district, which is currently bounded by Main, Pearl, and Washington Streets from Goodell Street to the Buffalo River.

The new boundaries could expand the district as far west as Elmwood Avenue and as far east  as Ellicott Street.

The move would put approximately 100 more downtown properties under their marketing umbrella- but also assess them a new fee for the joint marketing efforts, and the and the litter, snow, and grafitti removal services they perform on the city's behalf. Property owners inside the Buffalo Place current boundaries pay a varied fee based primarily on the size of their building. The fees support Rotary Rink downtown, a range of streetscape beautification efforts, and extensive promotion of downtown events.  

"We have to look at the services that get delivered and the fee that you pay and many of us feel it's the best bargain out there," said   Buffalo Place Executive Director Michael Schmand.

Since 1982, the group has organized and promoted hundreds of large downtown events, and was the original organizer of the Thursday In The Square concert series.  With many large gatherings on hold, they continue to market individual efforts and events in the downtown core.

At the group's board meeting this morning they set up a committee to study the border change.  The move is something Schmand says property owners and Mayor Byron Brown want- but developer Rocco Termini predicted some pushback on the financial front.

"You may be getting some pushback from people because they are getting a 40 percent increase in their real property tax right now, and on top of that you are asking them to bear some more taxes for Buffalo Place. There may be a lot of pushback out there," Termini said.

The issue has been a priority for Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Brendan Mehaffey, his director of strategic planning, according to Buffalo place board member Paul Ciminelli.

"I commend the mayor and his vision of what he wants to do with downtown. He wants to play offense when there are a lot of other cities playing defense (on downtown development and marketing)," Ciminelli said , recapping a recent meeting with Brown for the Buffalo Place board. 

"They said it was very clear that they need the support operational, and that Buffalo Place can be a part of that. .. the majority of the people downtown, the stakeholders, want  this to happen. In my mind, there's no reason why this shouldn't happen. "