The demand for housing in downtown Buffalo is high, and city leaders and developers are rushing to meet that demand.
"It'll be a living downtown which is what we should have. A living downtown. A living city," said developer Douglas Jemal.
Jemal is pouring millions into making that vision a reality for Buffalo. His Douglas Development company is redeveloping the Seneca One Tower, with M&T planning to bring more than 1,500 tech jobs into the city's tallest building.
That project also includes apartments, as do his plans for the old Buffalo Police headquarters which he plans to renovate.
To Jemal it's simple: people working downtown need a place to live and he wants it to be in the heart of the city.
"We don't have enough residential to service the amount of people that M&T will be bringing into the tower," Jemal said.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said in his State of the City address that it's a goal to add 2,100 new residential units along the Main Street Corridor in the coming years, along with creating public spaces and making the downtown more pleasing to the eye.
"We want Buffalo to be one of the most inviting places in the nation for tech talent and other talent to want to locate to live," Brown said.
The demand for downtown living has already grown with all the changes from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on one end to KeyBank Center on the other end of downtown.
A recent Buffalo Place study shows 97 percent of downtown apartments and condos are full.
More than 1,000 are currently more are under construction or proposed. Some 5,200 people now live in downtown units, nearly twice as many as 20 years ago.
"It's a pretty exciting time to be in downtown Buffalo and I think we're going to continue to see that momentum of more people wanting be downtown," said William Paladino, Ellicott Development CEO.
Paladino says apartments are quickly leased once they open up, like at their 500 Pearl building on downtown's northern end.
People enjoy being close to attractions like Canalside and the entertainment and theatre districts, he said. 500 Pearl also includes bars, a hotel, even a theater and a bowling alley.
"The more amenities you can put with people that are living in your buildings or in close proximity, the better off you're going to be with apartments," he said.
Paladino applauds the city's focus on opening Main Street back up to vehicle traffic and looking at the future of transportation. The biggest key, he says, is bringing businesses downtown, such as M&T's move into Seneca One.
"The thing that's going to sustain downtown living and keep the growth and momentum going is jobs. We have to create more jobs in downtown Buffalo," Paladino said.
Mayor Brown and city planners want to see 40 percent of new housing be affordable for low- and middle-income earners.
"We see these all as connected initiatives to make this an incredibly vibrant and inclusive community in the city of Buffalo," said Brendan Mehaffy, who leads the city's strategic planning unit.
That's a notion Anne Duggan of Ciminelli Real Estate agrees with.
“We’re seeing a growing interest for a wider spectrum of residential living in downtown Buffalo," Duggan said. "While high occupancy levels indicate that there is still a demand for market rate rental units in the downtown area, there is also a strong need for additional affordable units, as well a mounting interest in for-sale residential. People want to live downtown, and the data seems to only support the mayor’s goal of creating over 2,000 new residential units there.”