By James Fink  |  Buffalo Business First  |  Sep 24, 2021, 6:00am EDT

Buffalo’s newest development hot spot: Canisius College

Kulback’s Inc. president Tom Barrett has two words to justify buying two Buffalo buildings from Canisius College.

“The college,” he said.

Kulback’s acquired Griffin Hall and Main Humboldt Townhomes this summer to convert into market-rate apartments. They are the latest in a series of developments planned or underway in the vicinity of the college – Route 198 to the north, Harvard Place to the south, Florida Street/Jefferson Avenue to the east and Linwood Avenue to the west.

“Canisius is a great anchor,” said Adam Walters, a Phillips Lytle LLP partner who has represented development interests around the college. “Canisius was already a good neighborhood, but like Larkin and Niagara Street it was overlooked for a while.”

Canisius helped to pave the way for the neighborhood’s development by encouraging private-sector projects. College President John Hurley said the college invested more than $185 million in campus upgrades over a number of years and that helped to “stabilize the neighborhood.”

“What is happening now has been a long time in coming,” Hurley said.

Some development comes from the college such as plans to raze an aging Science Hall parking ramp and replace it with a landscaped, 420-spot surface parking lot and a $17 million makeover of Science Hall at 1901 Main St., once a Sears Roebuck & Co. department store.

Jason Yots, founder, Common Bond Real Estate LLC, is a private developer who is turning the former Record Theatre flagship store into a $7 million mixed-use building with 20 apartments. The building at 1800 Main St. will be called “The Monroe” in a nod to an auto dealership that operated there in the 1930s.

The project is across Main Street from the college, a fact not lost on Yots and his development partners of Mike Puma, Travis Gordon and Richard Rogers.

“There’s a new generation of people who look at the mid-Main area around Canisius as a place with a lot of opportunities,” Yots said. “The college brings a lot of critical mass.”

Developer Will Severyn and his brother, Alex, have undertaken residential projects in the neighborhood. On Florida Street, they renovated seven homes into market-rate duplexes. All are filled and the Severyns have a waiting list.

Making the development leap from the Linwood Avenue/Oxford Place neighborhood to Florida Street/Jefferson Avenue on the college’s east side was not hard to make, Will Severyn said.

“Actually, it was a very easy jump across Main Street,” Will Severyn said. “There is a deep renter base that is interested in both sides of Main Street around the college. If people think they are being priced out of the West Side, it is only natural for them to look east.”

James Militello, J.R. Miltello Realty president, said several factors are driving the surge. Militello has been retained by Canisius to sell its Health and Sciences Building on East Delavan Avenue for $6.5 million and Demerly Hall at 2365 Main St. for $2.5 million.

First is location in the middle of the city and along the busy Main Street corridor. Second, is the search for affordably priced real estate. The east side of Canisius offers that option.

There is also critical mass from 2,616 enrolled students and 563 employees.

“For a lot of good reasons, the Canisius area has become a good location to invest in,” Militello said. “Some times you need that spark to get things going and that development spark has made its way to Canisius.”