10/13/2011

Ulrich to Sell UCC

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported that David Ulrich is planning on selling the Ulrich City Center.


David L. Ulrich said Wednesday he intends to sell Ulrich City Centre, the downtown commercial area where Lockport’s Friday night summer concerts are held.

The apparent buyer is Timothy Gelder of East Amherst, an executive at Barden&Robeson Corp., the Middleport prefabricated housing manufacturer.
Ulrich said the deal is not yet complete. However, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency on Wednesday transferred the tax break on the complex, which lasts through 2021, to 175 Walnut St. LLC, a holding company created by Gelder.
Ulrich said the 30,000-square-foot complex, which hosts a mix of restaurants, stores and professional offices, has not been profitable since it opened in 2005.
It was built on the South Block, a site on Main Street that had been vacant for more than 30 years, since the former businesses there were demolished under the federal urban renewal program....

I know headlines are supposed to grab readers but the "unprofitable" in the headline rubs me the wrong way. Ulrich may have not made much on it but if someone is willing to buy it there has to be a long term vision of profit.

The site itself is the closest example of great urban site development in WNY. Street side facades and parking in the rear are wonderful. The lack of front door use and no upper floors (residential etc) are some of the misses. But even today, what sits there is way beyond what I would have imagined when surveying the empty south block that existed when I fist moved here in 2003.

I wish the best of luck to the next owner.The Larkin building (and now district) in Buffalo show that anything is possible with committed owners with unique visions.

30 comments:

george2012 said...

-I've been a Tucker basher because I do think he considers himself a dictator and he is a lousy manager, but kudo's to him for standing up to Ulrich re: his rants against Ottaviano.

-How can you consider this a success with the amount of failed businesses that have been in there plus all the empty storefronts? Just because it looks good and fits your definition of what an urban area should look like doesn't mean it's going to work. It will be interesting to see the purchase price as to if Ulrich made any money off it, especially considering the $1,000,000 he was given to build it.

MJ said...

Are you suggesting that if it was set-up another way, say opposite like Lockport Plaza on S. Transit, it would have done better?

There is no question that the retail scene in DT is suppressed. We knocked down all the old buildings in the 60s-70s that are the usual starting points for new businesses. New builds are expensive and usually not competitive. It's the price the city pays for knocking everything down decades ago to only be left with shovel ready sites. The price to fill them again is not for the faint of heart.

If Lockport takes the steps to make residential in and near DT successful, the UCC will stand the test of time and be an important building block in the future of DT regardless of the short term performance.

MJ said...

I'm also curious what all those who were constantly harping on "the killing" Ulrich was making off of the concerts have to say now?

Xavier said...

- crickets - crickets - crickets...

george2012 said...

- I think a modern plaza like say the Walker Center in Williamsville with nice landscaping and attractive entrances would have done better. Maybe the idea of the UCC isn't bad, but I think that design is. For example the store fronts on Main St don't have any clear entrances, it looks like a solid block of windows. Maybe if the city hadn't gone overboard on demanding plain signs that you can't really see those store would be better.
- And again (yes, crickets are singing) but adding more welfare apartments right next to downtown sure as heck isn't going to encourage people to go there.
- Taboo did make a killing off those concerts on Friday nights. It might not have created a profit for Ulrich for the entire UCC, but it did make Taboo profitable enough to find a buyer for it.
- Are we going to see the same scam that these guys pulled with the assessment on Professional Park with the UCC? I might be wrong but didn't the new owner buy it and then immediately get a much lower assessment? Funny Ulrich quit his assessment challenge right as he sold it.

Xavier said...

George - you beat me to it!
While I'll slightly disagree with you re: comparison to the Walker Center, I do agree that it should be turned inside out so "drivers-by" can actually see what it contains. I firmly agree that plunking more Welfare folks on its borders does not a safe shopping mecca make. Lock it in your trunk, folks and set your alarms.
David was not just a little concerned about the clientele (sp?) Taboo, or whatever it's called, drew in the later hours. There is a distinct changeover I'm told after, say, 11:00 pm. One so drastic that young men of my son's acquaintance won't go there. (It's also too darn expensive.)

MJ said...

Walker center is a nice example of auto based design. But it has no place in the middle of a walkable city. It would look great out in the town though.

As I did mention above they did err on not making sure the street side entrances were used as the main ones and that the facades remained transparent to the street. Two big no-nos.

The biggest problem I find with the signs is that they are flush against the buildings which does not allow you to see them until you are close. Projecting signs are the way to go DT. Limit their size and allow any color - design -etc on it. Th design ordinance had noble goals but in legislating some of the smaller things, they overlooked the large ones.

Karen said...

The reason that the store fronts sit empty is because the asking price for rent is way too high for most small businesses in Lockport to survive and make a profit. Is it a beautiful, new building that could demand an even higher rent somewhere else? Absolutely. But, this is Lockport, so until the business starts booming like in other places (like the Walker Center), the landlords need to give the businesses a break on the rent(especially when they get tax breaks & incentives).

MJ said...

That's the hard part with new builds. They will require higher rents to remain viable. But they are necessary to close the gaps DT to make it a destination instead of just one or two businesses here or there.

Imagine the Galleria Mall with 50-100 parking spaces between each store for "convenience". How many would you notice, walk past, discover, patronize, etc compared to the current set-up?

gijoe2012 said...

News flash..to retail hopefuls.

When business starts booming..in Lockport??.

The telltale signs of indifference to a community and it's demographics is obvious when you can't get Wegman's or Target interested.

The sooner we all take a good dose of reality the better. Businesses from outside of the community are reluctant to invest here when 20+% of the population LIVES UNDER THE POVERTY LEVEL. and over 40% of the property is not owner occupied. You can talk all you want about the visual and the parking and the aesthetics, but you're only fooling yourself. Blighted housing surrounding the city is stopping any serious investment, and will continue to be the anchor around our neck. Anybody that thinks otherwise needs to have their head examined.

gijoe2012 said...

OK David...take your ball and go home....

"Merry Christmas Mr. Potter"

MJ said...

Which demographics are you including? Just the city or the city and the town? And since when does Target or Wegman's(or any big box)open city stores ?

The statistics you mention are a reality of a society as a whole. There will be poor and they will need a place to live. Knock it down they will move somewhere else (Market -> Genessee). Our society is set up to where the poor are left behind in old city centers as opposed to European cities where they are pushed to the outskirts.

These figures do not prohibit US cities from having great neighborhoods and shopping districts or from older neighborhoods being turned around. Most that are turned/turning around grow off of walkable commercial strips.

Lockport has two ingredients for a slow change in fortune (walkable infrastructure and affordable housing stock). What we do with it is up to us. Which is why I wouldn't put my hopes into businesses from outside the city or franchises. Looking at Elmwood Ave and then Hertel Ave and now Amherst St in Buffalo the growth as come from local businesses. If we were to look for anything else we'd be misguided.

Karen said...

The problem with attracting new businesses (local or out of town) is that a lot of the same people own all the commercial property in the city/town so there is not a lot of competition in terms of negotiating a good/affordable lease. Businesses could thrive in Lockport if there were enough of them to draw in the customers (and keep them from going to Clarence or Amherst) but the problem is that the landlords could care less about building up business in Lockport. So, they will continue to try to make their properties "profitable" at whatever cost.

gijoe2012 said...

my point MJ is that the Big Boxes follow the money..and they follow each other..and I too think any situation can be turned around with enough inertia. The problem is it takes a lot more than wishing and hoping things change. A City filled with dreamers and procrastinators won't accomplish anything, and you know that as well as I. These little dribs & drabs of progress as put forth by the politicians for general consumption to placate the "natives" and keep us all quite is waring a little thin. While some of you are defending Johnny "O" let's look at his record of accomplishment with absentee landlords, banks abandoning properties, and giving passes to city employees with serious housing violations. If you want housing and "rouge" landlords held accountable start with Tom DiMillo and John Ottaviano. Although I respect both of these gentlemen they are going to have to take a much tougher stance on housing violators."The time for hesitations through..."

Xavier said...

Joe, please add Building Inspections to that list as it is where the violations are supposed to be first noticed, warned and sent to Court.
Then if we could ever have this issue deemed as important as flowers on Main Street by Messrs. Ottaviano and DiMillo (who can only handle what he's given) we stand a chance.
If it continues to be ignored this place will be the dump of dumps - it's already bad and many very serious violations are routinely overlooked. Why? I don't know. But the landlords and property owners who don't give a dam have absolutely NO incentive to fix things up.
It stinks to high heaven - literally.

On a great note - The RECYCLING PROGRAM is going both barrells!!! Fantastic week for the first week! I expect it to only improve!

george2012 said...

-It's not Ottaviano's job to prosecute any crimes for the city including housing.
-We will never have a nice walkable downtown until we get rid of the war zone it is surrounded by. Most people would not dream of walking through the war zone to get downtown. We should be discouraging adding more welfare apartments to the area instead of encouraging them as we are now.
-The Walker Center is in the middle of a classic 'downtown' in Williamsville. A design like that could have actually encouraged other downtown businesses.

Pete said...

I think John has 3 assistants. In any event, not enough manpower is dedicated to cleaning up the squalor. If the people in place aren't doing their jobs - get rid of them. If you need more-hire them.
the return on investment will greatly benefit this City.
Building Inspections is not doing its job.

MJ said...

"The Walker Center is in the middle of a classic 'downtown' in Williamsville. A design like that could have actually encouraged other downtown businesses."

The Walker Center is not in the middle of Williamsville DT. It is actually not in Williamsville at all but in the Town of Amherst right next to the I-290 West entrance.

I still don't see what is "encouraging" about that design. The owner does a good job of filling it with their companies and those that accent them which is probably the biggest plus of that plaza. All things that could be done with UCC while having the additional bonus of creating a walkable DT.

MJ said...

The best code enforcement starts with residents themselves. I made a complaint a couple weeks ago and the issue was rectified within a couple weeks.

With all of their duties they will never have time to catch anywhere near everything. Whereas the the 20,000 pairs of eyes in the city can do a much better job of self policing violations.

MJ said...

Cleaned up for the sake of being consistent. The points that were made could have easily have been done without insults or direct confrontation.

savelkpthousing said...

Coming Soon to a neighborhood near you

savelockporthousing.com

The rules are going to change

MJ said...

Let me know when it is up an running. I'll be happy to link to it.

Xavier said...

Thanks for clearing up exactly where the Walker Center is located.
It IS the Corporation Counsel's job to prosecute those cited for any violation of the City Code - like falling down houses and dangerous conditions. There is one Assistant Corp. Counsel assigned to this and only this.

The problems occur when residents advise the City of hazardous conditions and no one does anything about it. Eventually, the citizens give up - especially when they are ridiculed for doing so.

Karen said...

In my opinion, you can have all the nice, up to code houses you want (with nice people living in them), it will not solve the business problems in this city/town. There are plenty of nice houses and people with money here, but they do not make an effort to support local businesses. (Of course this is a generalization-some people do). Downtown is not going to draw chains (obviously) but people here do not support the smaller stores enough to make them profitable. You can change the way that Genesee, South, Washburn streets look and put nicer homes there but the fact of the matter is, those people will get into their cars and drive somewhere else to eat & shop. It has to be more affordable for businesses to exist downtown and therefore want to open there and to stay there.

gijoe2012 said...

respect your opinion..
but disagree with your thesis.

gijoe2012 said...

Walker Center...just another Benderson "Looking"
plaza....

I believe it's actually owned by the people who own Stereo Advantage.

MJ said...

Yup. Hence my "their companies". Stereo Advantage is moving in, if they haven't already, which will put all the businesses they own under that roof. They then add places they think will compliment them. There was an article a while back in the Buffalo News when they sold the old location they held forever down the street.

Is about as attractive as one can make a strip mall located behind a large parking lot. Though UCC is quite Benderson Looking in the actual buildings (not layout). Hard to do authentic looking period new builds thought the few put up on Ellicott in Buffalo do it very well.

Google 530 Ellicott St in Buffalo in Google Street View.

Karen said...

If we look at 120 Main St. for example. Now that the school has left, Granchelli's would like to open it back up as a mini-mall with businesses, a restaurant, etc again. There were a few interested businesses but the problem is that the property is is no shape to be leased at this time. Granchelli's will have to put some money into the building now and then businesses might commit. But when you walk in and see buckets all over the floor from the leaking roof, it hardly makes you want to move your business in there.

Xavier said...

"take your ball and go home" is still a winner!

savelkpthousing said...

MJ

The new housing advocacy sight was launched today.

savelockporthousing.com

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