Five years ago, a local nonprofit, Centro Cultural Italiano di Buffalo, expressed interest in converting an old unoccupied library into a cultural center for the group. The ball didn’t get rolling until Signature Development got involved, according to Joel P. Feroleto, a member of the city’s Delaware District Common Council, who has been involved in this conversion for more than two years.
Feroleto credits Rocco Termini, Signature’s CEO, for gathering support for the cultural center from both political parties. The state agreed to kick in $350,000 for the renovation, which was matched in February by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. The city also donated the land for the center to the community.
After Brown’s announcement, says Feroleto, two buildings near the library were purchased by developers. They plan to convert one of the buildings, a restaurant that had been closed for a decade, into a wine bar, and the other, a church that had been closed for three years, into eight luxury apartments.
Termini, who will oversee construction of the cultural center, and Tomasso Briatico, whose architecture firm is designing it, are working pro bono. Briatico says his design has 4,000 sf of usable space on two floors, including a downstairs kitchen for cooking classes, plus classrooms for cultural preservation education.
“Buffalo is turning a corner, and becoming more of a financial center,” says Termini. His group recently purchased an entire street, where it is developing an incubator space under Start-Up NY, a program that allows new businesses to operate tax free for 10 years. He is also converting an 80,000-sf building in which a software development company and a ceramics manufacturer have each committed to taking 30,000 sf.