Rustbelt Revival: Buffalo restores historic music hall while Rochester turns huge 19th century factory into supportive housing

September 21, 2022 saw groundbreaking take place on two important redevelopment projects that renovate historic buildings.

Both projects will help revitalize their respective New York State cities, one by restoring heritage to boost the downtown arts scene, and the other by repurposing a 19th century manufacturing site into badly-needed affordable, supportive housing.

Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo:

Photo of the Main Hall courtesy of Kleinhans Music Hall.

This project advances downtown revitalization, offering a premiere, international landmark performance space within one to two miles of Buffalo’s central business district. It is a strategic community investment, as the immediately adjacent neighborhoods have seen economic investment and growth in the past decade.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown says, “For the past 82 years, Kleinhans Music Hall has been a jewel in Buffalo’s world-class cultural and architectural portfolio, but it is showing its physical age and it’s time for major updates. I thank Governor Hochul and the Empire State Development Corporation for New York State’s generous contribution to the $21 million renovation project that is now underway. Since 2016, my administration invested more than $2.6 million to maintain this City-owned treasure, and we are proud to contribute $2.2 million to this project which will safeguard this magnificent facility for future generations to enjoy.

Construction is now underway on a $21 million renovation project at Kleinhans Music Hall, a world-class arts and culture destination located in Buffalo. The project will upgrade and refurbish the National Historic Landmark and prevent further deterioration. Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced $8 million in FY 2023 budget funding for the project, in addition to up to $1 million in grants from Empire State Development.

The arts are critical to economic growth and community health in New York State, and Kleinhans is a vital cultural force in Western New York,” Governor Hochul said.

For decades, Kleinhans Music Hall, where my family and I have enjoyed countless evenings in the audience, has drawn visitors with its reputation for being one of the finest concert halls in the world. This project allows us to continue to make Kleinhans a modern welcoming place for visitors to experience top quality entertainment and culture for decades to come,” she added.

Kleinhans Music Hall, located on Symphony Circle has served Western New York for 82 years and is an economic engine for the region. It is owned by the City of Buffalo and managed by Kleinhans Music Hall Management Inc., a not-for-profit.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “The Kleinhans Music Hall renovations are critical for the safety and enjoyment of audiences and visitors to this historic venue, which is a key part of the cultural identity and economic vitality of Western New York. Thanks to Governor Hochul, these infrastructure upgrades ensure Kleinhans is stage-ready for generations to come.

The iconic hall was built in 1939, designed by Eliel and Eero Sarrinen, and is the home performance and rehearsal space to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel Series, and Buffalo Chamber and Music Society; and is rented for many school, community, and family celebrations.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra hosts all Buffalo Public School students in grades 1 through 5 to a performance at Kleinhans, amounting to about 24,000 children each year. An additional 16,000 students from across Western New York also travel to Kleinhans for performances annually. Each year, Kleinhans hosts nearly 200 events with approximately 200,000 people in attendance.

Daniel Hart, Kleinhans Director said, “As stewards of this magnificent building in partnership with the City, we are delighted that Governor Hochul has made this incredible commitment to this important project. This support, along with that of our other partners including the City of Buffalo and Erie County, has quickly transformed this effort from a dream to reality. Speaking for our Kleinhans Board of Directors, we believe the most important thing we can is to preserve and enhance the building so it can continue to be enjoyed for generations to come. This day represents a true milestone to that end.

After decades of use, virtually every corner of the Kleinhans building needs repair or support, including its exterior, interior, plumbing, roof, basement, electrical, doors, public safety and HVAC.

This phase of the project will accomplish the following:

  • Completion of an entirely new roof (current is 40 years old);
  • New central steam boiler/vacuum condensate return system upgrade to efficient modular steam boilers. Makeup water systems will be purchased and installed;
  • Upgrade heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems. Major equipment components and control systems will require replacement: New exhaust fans and ducts; steam traps throughout; front end BMS controllers; main auditorium HVAC; Livingston Hall and basement air handling units;
  • Life safety/energy efficiency. Update fire systems and smoke detectors; install new fall protection above the ceiling over the stage; door access and security system will be replaced throughout the facility; exterior lighting will be upgraded (parking lot, north and south canopies), interior lighting will be upgraded in all areas for energy efficiency; and
  • General building system. A new liner for the reflecting pool will be installed. Windows will be replaced. Painting and plastering throughout will be scheduled throughout the project timeline.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “Our community’s quality of life will be enhanced by these upgrades and improvements at Kleinhans Music Hall. This renovation project will strengthen the overall arts community in Erie County and also play an important role in the continued revitalization of our local economy. Preserving and enhancing this historic structure is a wise investment that will be appreciated by residents of our region and visitors to Western New York for many years to come.

The project is also environmentally responsible; water, electric, and gas management through the systems upgrade will provide greater efficiencies saving dollars and natural resources.

State Senator Tim Kennedy said, “For more than eight decades, Kleinhans has served as an iconic institution in the City of Buffalo, fostering a commitment to art, music, and community. This investment will prioritize the efficiency, safety, and accessibility of the Music Hall, and ensure it remains an integral part of our city for generations to come.

Additional support for the renovation project is being provided by the City of Buffalo, Erie County, Assemblyman Jon Rivera, and commitments from the private sector.

Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera said, “As a historical treasure in my district, Kleinhans is an important asset to our community with an international reputation as an extraordinary concert hall. Opened in 1940, the infrastructure of the building now requires attention and mechanical repairs. I am beyond proud that my office was able to secure grant funding to aid this project and to ensure that future generations of Buffalo’s music lovers will be able to enjoy the world-class setting and performances that Kleinhans consistently provides.

Canal Commons, Rochester:

Photo of groundbreaking ceremony courtesy of East House.

Construction has also begun on Canal Commons, a $64 million redevelopment that will convert a 19th century manufacturing facility into 123 affordable and supportive apartments. Located in Rochester, New York‘s Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, the building will include 70 homes with supportive services.

The Canal Commons development will breathe new life into this historic commercial building and create a vibrant community anchor in southwest Rochester,” Governor Hochul said.

Thanks to a significant state investment, we are unlocking 123 units of affordable and supportive housing for New Yorkers in need and providing them with the tools and services that will help them thrive. This project is a key component of my administration’s $25 billion housing plan, and we remain laser-focused on helping New Yorkers through the affordability crisis by offering safe, comfortable, and low-cost housing options,” she added.

Originally constructed in the 19th century for the James Cunningham & Son Company and renovated in the early 20th century to become the Utz and Dunn Shoe Company Building, the five-story, red brick structure functioned as a shoe factory from the 1910s to the 1950s. The building has remained vacant for over a decade.

New York State Department Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “New York’s Brownfield Cleanup Program is a powerful and effective tool helping to transform former industrial sites across the state, revitalizing communities and improving quality of life. Construction of the Canal Street Apartments in Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony neighborhood bolster’s Governor Hochul’s commitment to restore, redevelop, and greatly enhance abandoned and underutilized properties, particularly in communities historically burdened by environmental pollution, into affordable, energy efficient, and comfortable homes for New Yorkers.

The site was successfully remediated through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, which helps promote redevelopment as a means to revitalize economically blighted communities.

Renovations to the 166,000 square-foot building will respect its existing industrial character, with many structural columns left exposed, historic finishes maintained, and the factory’s plank ceilings expressed throughout the structure. Two one-story buildings of no historic significance, which currently function as a garage and loading dock, will be demolished.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Canal Commons will preserve a vital piece of Rochester’s past and contribute towards the transformation of the historic Susan B. Anthony neighborhood from a mostly industrial area to a vibrant live/work community. Because of work beginning today, 123 households will have a brighter future and an affordable home in a remarkable building. The inclusion of 70 homes with supportive services will ensure that the neighborhood’s economic growth leaves no one behind. Thank you to our partners at East House and MM Development Advisors, Inc. for their work on this development which will improve lives and enhance a community.

The development will house 81 one-bedroom and 41 two-bedroom apartments, along with one studio apartment. All 123 apartments will be affordable to households with incomes at or below 60 percent of Area Median Income. Seventeen units will be adapted for those who are mobility impaired and five units for those with hearing or vision impairment.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “Canal Commons is a reinvestment in one of Rochester’s historic neighborhoods and is a great reminder of the impact historic tax credits can have to help advance a project’s goals. I applaud Governor Hochul’s initiative to prioritize equitable and affordable housing in New York State and see opportunities for communities to continue to incorporate their historic resources into these types of collaborative revitalization plans.

Seventy apartments will be reserved for adults with serious mental illness, substance use disorders, or who are chronically experiencing homelessness. Residents will have access to rental subsidies and services administered by the New York State Office of Mental Health and funded through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative.

Representative Joe Morelle said, “We all deserve a safe and stable place to call home, but the challenge of finding affordable housing has held too many people back,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “Canal Commons will not only combat housing inequity but also strengthen this historic area of our city. I am grateful to Governor Hochul for her commitment to uplifting those in our community who need it the most and look forward to our continued work together to expand affordable housing, revitalize our neighborhoods, and create jobs here in Monroe County.

Services will include financial case management, education and employment counseling, peer support, life skills coaching, and social activities. The service provider is East House.

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “This project is reflective of Governor Hochul’s commitment to help provide affordable and energy efficient homes to more New Yorkers across the State. The Canal Street Apartments, when finished, will certainly offer more comfortable living spaces for families within the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood and help energize and reimagine this historic community.

Located in the Flower City’s Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, the site is less than a mile from Rochester’s Central Inner Loop, which is being transformed by extensive state and local investment, and is also near the city’s Bull’s Head neighborhood, which has also been targeted for revitalization by the city’s government.

State Senator Jeremy Cooney said, “I’m grateful for the state partners and East House’s leadership that made this essential groundbreaking possible. Canal Commons provides safe, affordable, eco-friendly housing and comprehensive services while refurbishing an historic landmark. I’m looking forward to the impact this 123-unit facility will have on quality of life in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood.

Canal Street Apartments will be green certified under NYSERDA’s Multifamily New Construction Program with the development utilizing Energy Star appliances, clean building materials, and integrated pest management. They will also offer energy-efficient features, including ENERGY STAR appliances and LED lighting, high-performance space conditioning equipment, windows, insulation, and air sealing.

Assemblymember Demond Meeks said, “Housing insecurity remains a long-standing issue within our community that was only exacerbated by the onset of the global pandemic. Affordable developments like Canal Commons will bring needed support to our families and individuals throughout the city of Rochester. It will offer safe, quality, affordable housing in a centralized location with immediate access to on-site resources. I want to thank Governor Hochul and my state colleagues for this significant investment within our historic Susan B. Anthony neighborhood. I am grateful for their continued commitment to the members of our community.

Canal Commons is being co-developed by East House and MM Development Advisors, Inc.

Scott Moquin, East House Acting President and CEO said, “Canal Commons is the ideal story of recovery. This once-functioning warehouse sat abandoned for decades. It was the vision of what this building could become- bright, shiny apartments filled with people and families – that inspired East House to become the Developer and Project Sponsor for this transformative project. Canal Commons will make a big impact on the gap of affordable housing, particularly for those in recovery in this community.”

Monica C. McCullough, Esq., President, MM Development Advisors, Inc., said, “In addition to providing high quality, truly affordable housing for the City of Rochester’s most vulnerable citizens, our work at Canal Commons will reverse the harmful environmental impact of generations of industrial activities while preserving a building significant to the historic fabric of the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood. The construction of Canal Commons will support more than 200 construction trade jobs and the ongoing operations will create more than 18 new full-time jobs. Supportive housing is a transformative investment in both people and communities. As the founder of a first-generation Woman Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) development company, I am honored to participate in such an important project located in the epicenter of our nation’s history to advance women’s rights.

State financing for Canal Commons includes $2.1 million in permanent tax-exempt bonds, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate $20 million in equity and $13 million from NYS HCR’s Supportive Housing Opportunity Program.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said, “When more of our hard-working families have access to affordable, high-quality apartments and the supportive services that can help them thrive, our entire community becomes stronger. I thank Governor Hochul and Homes and Community Renewal for their continued investments in the people of Monroe County and our quality of life.

Over the last decade, HCR has invested over $500 million in Monroe County to support nearly 6,000 homes, including the recently completed 270 on East on Rochester’s growing Inner Loop and Pueblo Nuevo Phase II, which creatively converted a vacant warehouse into 29 affordable and supportive homes in the El Camino neighborhood.

Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans said, “The Canal Commons housing development is bringing much needed affordable and supportive housing to the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood while also restoring a historic building that was once a source of blight in our community. I want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, East House and all of the agencies who supported this project for making this investment in Rochester. Providing our residents with safe, quality and affordable housing will advance our efforts to create a hope-filled city with an exciting future.

The NYS Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation approved Federal and State Historic Income Tax Credits that will generate $12.8 million in equity.

Jolie Milstein, President and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, said, “When Governor Hochul enacted her new, $25 billion five-year housing plan this year, we knew that projects like Canal Commons, which will revitalize a historic building in the heart of Rochester into hundreds of affordable and supportive homes, would become the standard across New York. We are proud to celebrate this achievement alongside New York State, East House, and MM Development Advisors as the kick-off to our annual conference. We hold their project up as a model development that should be replicated in communities across the state.

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance will provide $7.4 million from the Homeless Housing Assistance Program. OMH is providing approximately $1.75 million annually in operating funding through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, as well as a $335,000 Project Development Grant to help cover stat-up costs.

Featured historic postcard of Kleinhans Music Hall by unknown.

Learn more about Kleinhans Music Hall.

See East House website.

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