New Life for Empty Commercial Property.

January 20, 2012 Updated Jan 20, 2012 at 11:48 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

January 20, 2012 Updated Jan 20, 2012 at 11:48 PM EDT

(Buffalo, NY) Buffalo has too much empty commercial property, and it is hurting downtown re-development.

That's the conclusion of a year long study conducted by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Called the "Buffalo Building Reuse Project," the report came up with three main recommendations:

1) The Buffalo Urban Development Corporation should be designated as the lead entity for downtown development.

2) A dedicated funding stream needs to be created to provide loans, grants, and gap financing.

3) It needs to be a priority to implement a housing strategy to transition class 'B' and 'C' commercial property into residential use.

The City of Buffalo has pledged $40-million dollars to fund the project's recommendation. It is hoped that it will leverage additional money from private and government sources.

The study found that interest for commercial property will continue to be low, while demand for downtown residential units is increasing - thanks in part to expansion of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Several older buildings have already been re-developed for mixed commercial and residential use, and in some cases, there are waiting lists to get in.

Buffalo has two-million square feet of empty commercial property. Ten commercial buildings are completely vacant.

However, many of the remaining vacant commercial properties have serious problems - such as asbestos and structural issues.

The Buffalo Building Reuse Project recommends using funds to help provide 'gap-financing' for buildings that suffer from these types of problems.