He transformed the Hotel Lafayette into a bustling multi-use complex.
He turned aging, obsolete buildings into upscale loft apartments.
Now developer Rocco Termini plans to convert an old furniture store in the Elmwood-Hertel neighborhood into residential, commercial and retail space.
The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer visited Termini to discuss a number of projects.
Here is a summary of an interview that is part of the weekly “In Focus” series. Watch the full six-minute interview at BuffaloNews.com/video.
Meyer: Let’s do a hypothetical. A friend of yours from out of state calls and says, “You know, I’ve got a chunk of money I’m thinking of investing. I want to do a development project. Should I do it in Buffalo, and if so, what sector should I look at?”
Termini: My answer, of course, would be yes ... I’ll tell him to wait to see what happens with HSBC [Center]. Once we see a lot of the [Class B and Class C office] buildings downtown empty out, there will be a great opportunity to buy those buildings and convert them into mixed-use buildings. And I think that’s where the big opportunity is going to be downtown.
Meyer: Let’s talk about one of your new projects that has ignited a lot of excitement. So many people have passed that old FWS furniture store on Elmwood Avenue, just south of Hertel. What are you planning on doing with this cavernous building?
Termini: It’s really a great architectural building once you really take a chance to look at it. We’re going to be putting apartments in there. We’re going to be putting offices in there. A couple tech companies are going to be occupying those [offices]. And we’re also going to be putting a restaurant and a distillery in there.
Meyer: Why North Buffalo? Why the Elmwood-Hertel area?
Termini: Because I saw the building, and I fell in love with it. I know it can be a great building.
Meyer: But when you look at the building as it exists now, it’s tough to fall in love with it. It’s an ugly duckling on Elmwood.
Termini: It is, but you have to have some vision. Every building that I’ve done is an ugly duckling. That’s where the value is – to pick up buildings that are ugly ducklings and redo them.
Meyer: You’re doing another residential development [nearby].
Termini: It’s a half a block away on Grote Street, and that’s going to be 22 apartments and some retail in that building.
Meyer: We are sitting on the top floor of [the Hotel @ The Lafayette].
Termini: It’s going better than we ever thought it would go. We are booked up every weekend for this year for banquets already ... Our restaurants are mobbed every day. [Every] apartment is rented, and our hotel runs at around 70 percent occupancy.