City Shaper: Adam Walters

Adam Walters is this week’s City Shaper. He’s a real estate development attorney in Buffalo.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Each week, we introduce you to a Buffalo City Shaper – someone who is part of Buffalo’s resurgence.

This week, 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik shows us how one attorney is shaping some of Western New York’s biggest development projects.

“We did all the planning for the whole Canalside project. So, really everything from Washington Street up to the Thruway and over and under the Skyway,” explains Adam Walters.

Real estate development attorney Adam Walters moved to Buffalo from New York City in 1985 to go to UB.

“I remember when I was a young man, I paid in rent about half of what my father paid for his parking spot in Midtown, so I thought it was a really good place to start,” says Walters.

When Walters joined Phillips Lytle in the ‘90s, he was hired to work on a Clean Air Act case involving the Bethlehem Steel coke ovens. He says it was a natural transition from environmental law to land use and zoning law.

“There’s a famous saying that development is not for the faint of heart because there’s a lot of pieces, a lot of different types of pieces, that need to come together in order for a project to actually happen,” he says.

Walters is now a partner at Phillips Lytle and is working on some of Buffalo’s biggest development projects from Gates Circle to the Northland Workforce Training Center.

“We’ve seen a lot, but I’d have to say Canalside is probably my favorite project,” he says.

He is also working with developer Douglas Jemal on One Seneca Tower.

“The idea here is to soften things up dramatically and bring some activity. He’s going to do that by bringing ground level retail here to the plaza,” says Walters.

Walters says if you want to get into real estate development law, you need to have a thick skin because sometimes people yell at him if they don’t like a project he’s working on.

“You have to understand people are very protective of their home environments and their communities and they care about their communities tremendously. So, I mean, it comes from a good place, but you just have to kind of roll with it, address the issues, be the rational, reasonable person in the room, and that usually gets you where you need to go,” says Walters.

And, as far as where development in Buffalo is heading, he thinks the resurgence will continue.

“We’ve had low interest rates forever, they’re starting to go up, that makes it harder to do real estate development projects because it costs more to borrow the money, and it drives up the overall cost of the project, so are we at the end point? And, all indications are that we’re not. And, that we’re maybe in the second or the third inning of what will be a long game,” says Walters.

People are expected to move into the apartments in the buildings next to One Seneca Tower around the first of the year.