Developer Sam Savarino plans to transform the second floor of the DL&W terminal in a waterfront music venue a stone’s throw from where Canalside Live wrapped up its annual summer concert series in 2019.
Savarino plans to use the site’s 40,000 square foot outdoor terrace, which he says can likely seat 4,000 to 5,000 people, for the new venue which is expected to open in 2025. Plans also include events live music inside the second floor of the building. Working with Project for Public Spaces – which created the “cheaper, lighter, faster” concept used at Canalside – Savarino is also envisioning an 8,000-10,000 square foot public market, artist studios and booths of food as well as a mobile stage for concerts, festivals and special events.
“Our intention is to create a public space of the size, scale and characteristics of successful large public spaces in other communities,” Savarino said.
Savarino said there was a need for a music room between the 400-capacity Buffalo Iron Works Music Club the developer owns in the nearby Cobblestone neighborhood and the planned 400-capacity amphitheater. 8,000 berths in the Outer Harbor.
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“There’s a big hole in the middle. One of the things that’s missing with Thursday’s loss to the Square and the Canalside gigs is a place with an easy entrance and an easy place to meet people,” Savarino said.
He said he believes the new concert hall on the building’s second-story exterior deck where the train line ends — overlooking the cobblestone neighborhood on one side and the Buffalo River on the other — will fill that hole. .
The reuse of the DL&W terminal is a long time coming. The lower floor serves as Metro Rail’s Yard and Shops complex, but the second floor has been vacant since the last Erie-Lackawanna passenger train left the station in 1962.
After $52 million in preliminary improvements, the NFTA will now use the $30 million recently approved in the state budget for 2022-2023 – the estimated price for the entire work – to repair and restore the second floor. from the shed.
“We (have been) planning this together since long before Covid,” said Josh Holtzman, who started as an events manager at Buffalo Iron Works eight years ago before becoming co-owner with Savarino. Twenty6 Productions, which Holtzman runs with business partner Grace Vesneske, will handle booking and production for the DL&W concerts.
They both visited the Cherry Street Pier in Philadelphia to see how a former train station terminal has been transformed into a mixed-use event space that includes a farmers market and an outdoor concert hall.
Then, at Savarino’s suggestion, they traveled to Hong Kong to see another multi-purpose terminal that is open daily and attracts large numbers of people.
“This trip was huge, because it was emphasizing something that Sam often says – that you can do a lot with very little space, and you can also fill a big space with a lot of little things,” Holzman said.
This aligns with their goal of creating a year-round entertainment venue that can transition from using a mobile stage in the summer to moving indoors, with other activities happening simultaneously.
Holtzman and Savarino said the DL&W terminal will operate “something in the vein of what Thursday was in the square,” with plenty of parking available due to proximity to the KeyBank Center and also access to the rail.
“What other event space has a subway that comes right to its front door?” said Holtzman. “You can hop on the light rail anywhere along the line, and if you take it all the way, you’ll be dropped off right at the concert.”
Holtzman said that, like at Iron Works, there will be a commitment to local artists and bands touring for national acts as well as the ability to headline events “tailored to them.”
It’s a significant concern for regional musicians, who have long argued that a “Buffalo renaissance” must include new opportunities for them.
“On paper this all sounds super cool, but as a musician I don’t know where this is going to help our scene,” said Geno McManus, a full-time musician with more than 25 years of experience. “I don’t think a local band can get 5,000 fans unless it’s tied to an event. Opening for a National can be fun and helpful, but these slots never pay anything, so it’s a bit more of a “for fame” deal, as opposed to a “get paid to work” deal.
Still, McManus said he thinks the venue itself has a lot to like, so he’ll be watching with interest.
“I’m very interested in this project, and I think most musicians in the community will be too, as long as local participation is handled fairly,” he said.
For Amherst’s James Seney, who said he attends about 100 shows a year, the promise of an easy-to-access mid-size venue in the Cobblestone neighborhood is enticing.
“The question for everyone in the Buffalo area should always be – ‘How can I get close to the water and have a good time doing it?’ This venue seems to answer that question,” Seney said.