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LISTEN ON DEMAND: THIS AMERICAN LIFE tribute to the 10 killed in the Tops Market shootings.

Planners seek Central Terminal redevelopment dollars tied to neighborhood growth

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Smith Group
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The online meeting discussed ideas that have been shared to date for Buffalo's Central Terminal.

A group of volunteers has soldiered on to keep Buffalo's historic Central Terminal complex from falling apart completely, gradually assembling the political support to put significant cash into planning its future.

The Central Terminal was probably at its peak about 75 years ago, in the wake of World War II and before jet airliners. Its surrounding Broadway-Fillmore community was also in great shape, booming and bustling with its Polish history. The trains left in 1979, but still go by near many abandoned tracks.

Now, Albany is starting to put up cash to turn around the old passenger train complex and indirectly its neighborhood, building on what volunteers have done to keep it viable. In an online meeting Thursday evening, planners described possible uses for the property.

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Credit Smith Group / Central Terminal Restoration Corporation
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Central Terminal Restoration Corporation

"In terms of the uses that we’re suggesting, it’s based on conversations with a whole bunch of developers and brokers about where this market demands," said planner james Lima. "So I’d be very surprised if a sophisticated developer like Jemal has a different idea that is outside of the range."

While the terminal may be a great place for a party or an outdoor picnic, the array of planners working on the its future see jobs and housing as long-term parts of ensuring the future of an array of buildings nearing a century of life. There are plenty of city-owned properties and vacant buildings in the vicinity to add on.

The nature of the neighborhood created a few heated words because it’s in bad shape with lots of vacant lots and many of the jobs don’t exist anymore. Peter Graves told the meeting that just renovating doesn’t solve the issues.

"And then you have the surrounding area remaining the way it is. Whatever happens there, it’s got to be connected to the East Side development. Otherwise, you wind up with just a waste of money because it’s just not connected in the neighborhood," Graves said.

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Credit Smith Group / Central Terminal Restoration Corporation
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Central Terminal Restoration Corporation

"They want authenticity. They want to learn about the place itself. They want to see the original, like you said Linda, before. The original character of the place has to be maintained, but also the history of the neighborhood plays a huge part of it," said Sandy Starks, who works in historical tourism. "You have the whole Polonia story. You have the Broadway Market."

This is at the same time another landmark in the Broadway-Fillmore community, the Broadway Market, has gained support toward a major renovation. Its two aging structures are seen as keys to turning around a long-struggling area, although it still needs more than state or federal money to thrive.

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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