The good news, if you think about it in a certain way, is that the once ornate Broadway Theatre on Buffalo’s East Side is in such disastrous shape. If it was in decent condition, the decision to restore the forlorn building wouldn’t count for so much.
The theater isn’t even a shell of its former self. It’s been empty and deteriorating for nearly a quarter of a century. Reviving it may not be as daunting a project as the restoration of Buffalo’s Richardson Towers was, but it’s safe to say this much: Neither is a job for the faint of heart.
And yet, there are plans to renovate this faded and crumbling beauty. If all goes well, the project’s partners will restore the theater’s details and put the 104-year-old structure back into use. That its backers believe there is a reason to spend their dollars on the project suggests something powerful about Buffalo’s renaissance: It’s real and spreading. East Side investment is now a thing. Who would have thought 10 years ago that the city would ever turn that corner?
Details on the work remain sketchy, but the project is being pursued by a partnership between the Western New York Minority Media Professionals and Ellicott Development. It’s a serious project that could produce important results for the East Side and the city.
This kind of undertaking was hinted at four months ago when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earmarked $50 million for infrastructure investments and other improvements in nine areas of the East Side. Buffalo developers such as Rocco Termini were enthusiastic. “Overnight, it puts the East Side on the map,” he said. “You will see projects coming out of the woodwork that people wanted to produce but couldn’t because they couldn’t get the numbers to work.”
Whether the Broadway Theatre project is related directly or indirectly to the state’s East Side investment strategy doesn’t matter. The fact is that developers’ confidence in the East Side is rising. They are interested in the possibilities of that long-forgotten part of the city.
This is an essential and encouraging development. The revival of Buffalo would count for less if it benefited only the usual parts of the city. That is has benefited those districts is beyond dispute: Businesses and
residents are moving into the city. Canalside is thriving. Home values are rising in Parkside, the Elmwood Village and even, as The News recently reported, in the Five Points neighborhood.
But, for this new day to truly count as transformative, the entire city needs to be lifted up and, now, developers are looking at the East Side.
Those neighborhoods no doubt pose significant challenges, but as this project and others suggest, there is reason for optimism. No one can tell today how much the East Side will progress over the coming years, but to find out, the work first needs to begin. It seems that it is.