By James Fink  |  Buffalo Business First  |  Dec 24, 2020, 7:00am EST

VIDEO: Covid slowed development momentum, but insiders are bullish on its future

The pandemic slowed down the Buffalo Niagara economy, but there are many signs of a rebound.

“We are starting to rebuild, but very slowly,” said Adam Walters, Phillips Lytle LLP partner, who specializes in real estate and development. “This is not a six-month thing. It is more likely a two-year thing.”

Adam Walters Adam Walters, partner, Phillips Lytle, is a commercial real estate specialist. (JOE VIERA)

Buffalo Business First’s annual BUILD research publication found that the value of Western New York projects in 2019 rose 3.1% in the past year, from $20.15 billion to $20.77 billion.

“There is a lot of excitement and a lot of innovation.” said Brandye Merriweather, Buffalo Urban Development Corp. vice president of downtown development.

Within four months, two groups have announced plans for movie and TV sound stages. Great Point Media of London, Larry Quinn and Bob and Mindy Rich are planning a $60 million sound stage complex at 1155 Niagara St. Buffalo native and Hollywood producer Matt Fleckenstein will build a $75 million sound stage at 1176 South Buffalo Ave.

“Two movie studios in Buffalo, who would have guessed that?” Walters said. “Real estate values (in Buffalo) are not crazy.”

Merriweather said out-of-town developers see opportunities here.

For example, Miami-based SAA/EVI built the $50 million Forge on Broadway residential complex on the site of the Buffalo Forge Co. plant. The company is now on the $50 million Pilgrim Village phase one on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“Building blocks are in place that people couldn’t visualize years ago,” Merriweather said. “The downtown of today is very, very different. So is the city.”