Buffalo Place, the downtown business improvement district responsible for running the summer concerts at the waterfront, is on track to lose about $200,000 this year after concert revenues fell short of expectations, officials said Wednesday.
The nonprofit group, which provides special services, activities and programs for the core downtown area surrounding Main Street, had an operating loss of $183,000 through the end of November and doesn’t expect to make it up this month, Treasurer Michael Baritot said at the group’s monthly board meeting.
“I’d be surprised if we have a positive December,” he said.
The group did have a surprise profit in November of $34,000, versus a projected $22,000 loss, because of payments from the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and unexpected revenues from National Grid USA’s sponsorship of the annual tree lighting at Fountain Plaza on Dec. 1.
National Grid has helped with the electrical connections for years, but this was the first time it also ponied up for financial support. Additionally, the company is sponsoring a free ice skating party on the first Wednesday of each month.
But Buffalo Place still saw lower sales from its summer-long concert series because of the weather and other factors, leaving it with the likely loss for the year, after two previous years of profits. “We’ll have offering baskets at the door,” Executive Director Michael Schmand joked, adding that officials would have to “make adjustments to make sure it’s not a trend.“
Meanwhile, officials said they are starting to seek out sponsors for next summer’s concert series and have also received some applications for vendors for the Downtown Country Market. Common Council Member Darius Pridgen, a member of the Buffalo Place board because his district includes the downtown area, urged the organization to rethink the fee structure for the market and broaden its advertising to diversify the vendor ranks.
“I’m concerned about the small businesses here in Buffalo that cannot compete with the large suburban businesses,” he said. “I think we can still make the revenues but help these businesses.”
In other matters discussed at the meeting:
• Work on the 600 block of Main Street for the Cars Sharing Main Street project has been moving forward, while planning continues for the 500 block, including Fountain Plaza. The city has held some informational meetings to review the road designs, and “we’re starting to get a little bit of interest outside of [property] owners,” said Debra L. Chernoff, manager of planning for Buffalo Place.
The design must be completed by April, and work has to start by October under the federal TIGER grant that the city received. The entire project will take a year to complete. The city in January will also release a design for restoring two-way traffic to Pearl Street, Chernoff said.
• The city has hired Watts Engineers for streetscape improvements on Genesee Street from Washington Street to Oak Street,and will also look at Sycamore and Huron streets, said David Stebbins, vice president of the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. Officials have applied for a $100,000 grant.
• The state is working with the city to “calm” traffic on Oak Street, including changing the signal timing to reduce the actual speed of cars to 30 mph from 35 to 40 now.