Those with businesses in the Cobblestone District – largely dormant save for Sabres games during most of the Covid-19 pandemic – hope music, arts and dining can breathe new life into a slice of the city its leaders see as important to bringing more visitors to Buffalo.
“This neighborhood is adjacent to downtown and to Canalside, and its development will help revitalize the city of Buffalo,” Fillmore District Council Member Mitch Nowakowski said Friday, as local lawmakers and business owners gathered in the district to announce they aim to turn it into a major entertainment hub.
“The Sabres are great, and we all love hockey, but we need to get people here for more than just a seasonal sport,” Nowakowski said. “We want this to be a mixed-use spot of comedy, of beer, of distillery, of music, of nightlife.”
The district – bounded by Perry, Illinois and Mississippi streets and South Park Avenue – is on the National Register of Historic Places for its industrial heritage dating to the Civil War.
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Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson said the Cobblestone expansion is an opportunity for visitors to see the historic value of the district.
“This is very exciting and a step in the right direction for this area,” Johnson said. “Being involved in the community, you hear the rumblings about what can transpire here.”
Business owners in the district – including those with Lockhouse Distillery, Buffalo Iron Works, Helium Comedy Club, Abbey Mecca & Co. and Club Marcella – have pledged to work with city officials and others interested in improving the district as a place to visit for an afternoon or night out.
“One of those vexing things as a council member is the harmony of entertainment and neighborhoods,” Nowakowsi said. “We realize that if we have strong entertainment districts where folks can enjoy themselves and enjoy the city of Buffalo, they won’t conflict with residents and the harmony and the relationship they have.”
A major component of the district’s expansion is the return of Cobblestone Live Music & Arts. The festival started in 2017, but went on hiatus the previous two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s event takes place in the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority yard on July 15 and 16.
“We want to showcase the beauty of this district is so many different ways,” said Josh Holtzman, Cobblestone Live Festival founder and Buffalo Iron Works owner. “One of the best ways to do that is to throw a music festival to bring people together of all walks of life.”
Holtzman said the gathering will contain music, vendors, local artisans, food and beverages that appeal to Buffalonians. Festival organizers anticipate up to 5,000 will attend.
Nowakowski predicted the district will benefit from the restoration of the nearby Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) Railroad terminal behind KeyBank Center.
“The spatial relationship of the Cobblestone District to that terminal is intrinsic,” he said. “In order for the collaboration to be successful, we need volumes of people, we need to move people to and from the Cobblestone District.”