Alexander W. Silvia
(Buffalo, N.Y.) — The Elmwood Village has been a thriving commercial district for many years, but recently there has been concern over the large number of vacant store fronts along the strip.
From Forest Avenue to Allen Street there are now 30 vacant storefronts along the Elmwood strip. According to the Buffalo News, that accounts for a 17 percent vacancy rate.
Niagara District Common Council member David Rivera says the loss of the Women and Children’s Hospital has played a role.
“Well we’ve lost many visitors; delivery, the workers, the nurses, the doctors, the people that would come into the area do some form of business with the hospital,” said Rivera.
“We lost that density that would sometimes go into the neighborhoods and spend, buy lunch and frequent our businesses up and down the strip.”
Delaware District Common Council member Joel Feroleto says there are other factors as well.
“I think there is a lot of different combinations, certainly a lot of people are purchasing more goods online. There is increased competition from other neighborhoods both in the city of Buffalo and also the suburbs,” said Feroleto.
Rivera and Feroleto hope the addition of an advisory board can help generate new ideas and offer a helping hand.
“That is why we’ve put together of an advisory group of hopefully some experts that can lend some advice as to how to make businesses more sustainable in our business districts,” Rivera said.
“That is why we’re putting this group together because we want to look at what are some of the issues facing small businesses and we want to come together and collaborate and do everything that we can to help continue to make Elmwood a thriving commercial district,” said Feroleto.
The task force will consist of several different experts, business owners and members of local colleges.
“We’re working to getting some local business owners some small business owners to come together, a lot of the business owners on Elmwood have been here for over 10, 20, 30 years,” Feroleto said.
“So we want to tap into what has made them successful and come up with any suggestions on what the city can do to help the business owners, what the state can do, working together to try to come up with solutions.”
Ashley Smith, executive director of the Elmwood Village Association, said she would love to see the new advisory board produce some summary stats regarding storefront turnover and chronic variances.
“There are a greater number of vacancies adjacent to proposed projects. Investment in these spaces will be hard until there is more clarity around the status of the projects,” she said in a written statement.
Quality is another concern, according to Smith, because very few spaces are in good shape and present a quality environment for a new business.