Downtown film & arts center up for sale

May 7, 2014 Updated May 7, 2014 at 8:29 AM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

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Downtown film & arts center up for sale

May 7, 2014 Updated May 7, 2014 at 8:29 AM EDT

Buffalo officials are expecting strong interest from the development community as it puts one of its most visible pieces of real estate up for sale.

Letters of interest are due back this Friday, May 9, from any entity looking to acquire the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre and the Bijou Grille property on Main Street. The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency decided to sell the building this winter and began soliciting interest from prospective buyers.

It comes as the city agency prepares to complete a transaction of the neighboring portion of the historic Market Arcade complex to developer Nick Sinatra for $1.4 million.

BURA sent out the Market Arcade packages to more than 60 developers and brokers.

The RFP covers circa 1892 Market Arcade buildings located at 639-643 Main St. and 628 Washington St. In reality, the three are intertwined and viewed as single building.

Formal bids are due back the BURA by June 20. City officials hope to have a sale in place by this summer.

Key to any potential bidder is keeping the seven-screen Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre open and running. The movie house has been operated by Dipson Theaters for more than a decade. Dipson continues to book current, first-run movies for the theater.

However, for the movies to continue the theater will need to upgrade its projection equipment, which by some estimates could cost as much as $400,000. Local leaders are looking at various funding avenues to underwrite that tab.

The eighth theater is rented by the Road Less Travel Productions, which presents plays and other live events.

Combined, the eight auditoriums seat 1,842 people and occupy 32,891-square-feet. The not-for-profit Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre Inc. oversees the operations.

The complex also includes the Bijou Grille, including a first-floor restaurant and upper level private catering center. The Bijou, run by Michael Militello and his sister, Bea, has been a downtown mainstay since the early 1990s.

Via Evaluation leases 2,175-square-feet in the building as well.

BURA's decision to issue the RFP comes at a time when development interest in downtown's central business district continues to surge with more than $4.3 billion worth of projects underway between the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the Canalside footprint at the southern end of Main Street.

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