As we mark two years of COVID and positive steps toward post-pandemic living, the changes to our lives have been profound and will have lasting effects. In many ways, the pandemic turbocharged many commercial real estate trends that were already in motion pre-pandemic and catapulted them into the mainstream.
Below we highlight two major shifts which have occurred in Buffalo’s Commercial Real Estate market. Although the long-term effect of the pandemic will likely take years to fully assess, you can expect that these trends will continue to impact the way we live, work, and enjoy our region for years to come:
We continue to see increasing demand for mixed-use development, which typically incorporates a range of office, retail, and residential elements in a single location. Growing demand for mixed-use is due in part to the convenience of having everything you need on one site, and demonstrates the impact our modern fast-paced lifestyle has on all aspects of our lives – including real estate.
Although the mixed-use model was once predominantly an urban preference, with Uniland being a local pioneer with mixed-use showcases at Avant and the Delaware North Building downtown, the trend has expanded into the suburbs over the last decade. Off I-990 In Amherst, announced plans for the Residences at CrossPoint will add 200 new apartments to CrossPoint Business Park. Already home to several Fortune-500 companies with numerous on-site shopping and restaurant options, the Residences at CrossPoint will bring a new residential component and enhance the vibrancy of Western New York’s largest office park.
Across the globe, cities are expanding upon the mixed-use concept and establishing innovation districts in new ways that enhance how commercial real estate connects with the surrounding community. Mixed-use initiatives are helping to spur innovation, collaboration, and synergies, and we are already seeing this in our own city with areas like the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Others will follow.
Lastly, for final proof that mixed-use development is here to stay, look no further than announced plans from several local malls to convert into Lifestyle and Town Centers. The Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence is undergoing changes which will create the region’s first Town Center. Upon full buildout, the 100+ acre site is expected to include approximately 1,500 residential units, 1 million square feet of office space, restaurants, a brewery, and parks for outdoor events.
One can already get a taste of the future at The Eastern Town Center via the success the mall has had with several high-profile and well-attended events, including the Off-Broadway Easter Market and Beyond Van Gogh exhibit, which saw Buffalo leading the nation in attendance and welcoming over 170,000 people during its run this past summer and fall.
Reconsidering Workspace Function
While coworking and flexible office space trends were already gaining momentum pre-COVID, hybrid work caused many companies to reconsider workspace function. Today’s workforce is not just focused on where we work, but the way we work. Creating workspace where employees want to be is critical for employee retention, talent attraction, and to differentiate companies in an era with the tightest workforce in decades.
While at one time elaborate executive offices and rows of cubicles dominated corporate work environments, the modern office is highlighted by on-site amenities and reimagined workspace. HANSA workspace on Ellicott Street in the Central Business District is a model example of how workspace has evolved. Providing a range of coworking, small office, and large office team suites, HANSA’s flexible office space has shown to be attractive to businesses and employees alike as it provides month-to-month workspace rentals while providing access to amenity-rich conference rooms and collaborative workspace. As Business First previously highlighted, two of Buffalo’s newest tech companies, Rural Sourcing and Torch Labs, are building up their teams there.
The past two years have seen many challenges. Now is the time to work toward a stronger Buffalo region for our ongoing renaissance.