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PHOTOS: Your first look at the new Shea's Seneca

The nearly century-old Shea's Seneca officially re-opened Thursday night with a reception and tour.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
The interior lobby is a feast for the eyes.

Schneider Development spent $10 million turning a tired and deteriorating South Buffalo landmark back into the community center Mike Shea built nearly a century ago.

The actual theater is long gone, replaced by a parking lot behind the complex. What remains is a carefully rebuilt Shea's Seneca with banquet facilities, a flower shop, a craft beer bar, a coffee shop and a Mexican restaurant on the way.

There are also 23 market-rate apartments. The newly relit marquee flashes over Seneca and Cazenovia.

Lou Petrucci was there in the old days for hockey banquets and listening to The Ramones.

"Now it's back. It's unbelievable. It's phenomenal," Petrucci said. "It'll be very nice to see the Public and Bottle Rocket, the floral shop, etc. etc. And the units. Nice part about this is phenomenal. But they didn't touch much of it. It was preserved in place and they just had to remove things and restore it to its original glory."

As assistant director for City Hall's Permits and Inspection Services Department, Petrucci knows how complicated it can be to restore and old building. Judging by conversations with people who were there for the re-opening, it was partially rebuilt with memories of what the building once was.

Former South District Councilmember Bonnie Kane Lockwood looked back to the old and exulted over the new.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
There are 24 new market-rate apartments on site.

"Here we are in 2019, celebrating new memories to be made here," she said. "My wedding reception was here at the Skyroom, almost 40 years ago, and I lived off Seneca Street and it was a big deal to have your wedding reception on Seneca Street. And to think that it's going to be a big deal and people have confidence in our neighborhood once again, to love things that we always loved about it, again."

Cathy Cunningham remembered dancing in the old Skyroom upstairs and knows the new commercial tenants.
"I know Sam from Public coffee. I know April, who is opening the flower design shop and I know Billy Lewis, who is opening Bottle Rocket's," Cunningham said. "So I couldn't be happier for all of them and happier for the neighborhood because it's all great businesses."

The entire project isn't quite done, although several apartments have already been rented and Public Espresso is soon to start brewing and self-proclaimed taco joint Cantina 62 won't open until Feb. 1.

Meanwhile, Schneider Development is moving attention to a former bank building a block away, for another adaptive reuse.

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