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Little holiday joy expected for downtown retailers this season

Visit Buffalo Niagara
Main Place Mall is a popular shopping spot for downtown Buffalo, but perhaps not so much this holiday season.

Developer Carl Paladino and his Ellicott Development own a lot of residential, retail and office property in the traditional downtown shopping district of Buffalo and is forecasting a bad shopping season.

Downtown has been changing in the years leading up to COVID-19, with a much more residential population along with its government and and business workers - and more and more residential space is coming online, like Douglas Jemal's Seneca One tower at the foot of Main Street.

However, Paladino said, with so much of government shutting offices and moving to home work, there are thousands fewer people downtown every day. That means a a bad year for retailers.

"I think it's going to be terrible for the retailers. We're feeling it," Paladino said. "I think the most difficult part of it is you can see no end to it. When you can't see a light at the end of the tunnel, it gets really depressing. And I think that's the chief problem with this COVID."

Paladino said Ellicott has vacant storefront space which sits. He is also seeing problems renewing leases for office, retail and commercial space.

"A lot of businesses are just on the brink of disasters and it's not good," Paladino said. "The large retailers, they'll survive. They can get financing and they'll figure out ways to get around it. It's the little guys I think will be crucified."

Paladino said the new yellow zone status activated by the state Monday for most of Erie County doesn't help downtown either. The restrictions on restaurants, both the limits on the number of customers and the number of customers sitting at a table, will be bad for holiday party business.

The former GOP gubernatorial candidate blamed many in government, like the man he ran against, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for much of the economic plunge. He said it is an overreaction to the coronavirus.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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