Next Wave of City Development to Happen Along the "Belt Line"

October 10, 2013 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 6:14 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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October 10, 2013 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 6:14 PM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) The City of Buffalo is already seeing a number of development projects taking place in the downtown area.

And with demand for urban housing increasing, developers are now taking a closer look at old industrial structures built along 15-miles of train track.

Known as the Belt Line, and constructed by the New York Central Railroad in 1883, the tracks circle the City and played a key role in the growth of Buffalo.

Several large industrial buildings were also constructed along the Belt Line.

During the 20th Century, the industrial complexes saw the production of everything from cars, to airplanes, to the baking of bread.

Two Belt Line complexes, the Tri-Main Center and the Larkin District, have already been successfully converted.

"It is like a diamond in the rough," said Buffalo Developer Rocco Termini.

Termini is currently converting an old Belt Line factory building on Grote Street in the Black Rock Section into 22 apartments.

Called "Houk Lofts," the project was only feasible because of historic tax credits.

"Rents in Buffalo are too low to be able to amortize the kind of debt needed to do these buildings. Tax credits cover that gap that make them possible," added Termini.

During a morning presentation at the Houk Lofts sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, City Planner Chris Hawley explained that there are few undeveloped buildings left in downtown that can qualify for the credit - and that is why the City and developers are looking at the Belt Line.

Hawley said the City will be conducting a survey of all vacant Belt Line structures to see which ones might qualify for the historic tax credits, and within the next two months, the Common Council will be asked to approve the new Buffalo Green Code which will change the Belt Line zoning from industrial to mixed use.

But there are concerns, Rocco Termini warning that actions in Washington could affect the future of historic tax credits and any cuts made would have "dire" consequences for Buffalo Development.

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