Practice area highlights
How Phillips Lytle is helping revitalize Buffalo BY MATT CHANDLER
The eighth-floor balcony on the west side
of the Phillips Lytle building in downtown
Buffalo offers a prime vantage point to
survey the city’s revival.
With Lake Erie as a backdrop, historic
Canalside lies below, home to ice skating and paddleboats, depending on the
season. It’s a symbol of optimism for a city
that’s seen hundreds of millions in new
investment in recent years.
Part of Buffalo’s renaissance is Phillips
Lytle. Founded in 1834, the firm’s headquarters have remained in the city, and
today, the fingerprints of PL attorneys can
be found on countless major development
projects, including One Seneca Tower.
Adam Walters, partner in the firm’s real
estate and development practice team,
says the commercial development wave
has been a long time coming.
“There had been a redevelopment plan
for the waterfront since World War II,”
Walters says. “For some reason, the plans
we began to develop in the late 1990s re-
ally started to take hold.”
Walters estimates there are $8 billion to
$10 billion in active commercial devel-
opment projects in Western New York.
“We’ve always had an incredibly strong
real estate practice, representing develop-
ers and property owners on some of these
big projects,” says partner Doug Dimitroff.
“But we’ve seen a lot more projects come
through in the last five years.”
The Buffalo Central Terminal was a
hub during the city’s heyday of rail travel.
Shuttered since 1979, the half-million-square-foot building is an architectural
gem—and Phillips Lytle represents the
developer who plans to once again make
it a destination location.
“Nobody would have said we would be
working on major development projects
on the East Side of Buffalo a few years
ago,” Walters says of Central Terminal,
located in one of Buffalo’s most econom-
ically challenged zip codes. “This project
has the potential to have a positive
Then there’s “spin-off development.”
“We saw it several years ago with the
downtown casino project, and all of the
residual development around that property
once the casino was built,” he says. “And I
would expect to see plenty of that with One
Seneca and Central Terminal.”
Spin-off development means spin-off
spending. The firm is instrumental in the
development of a $27 million children’s
museum set to open in 2018. It’s estimated
that visitor spending will bring in nearly $5
“Eight years ago, we never envisioned
tour groups coming through Canalside—
that was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
But it’s happening,” Walters says.
Aside from big-picture development,
they’re in on grass-roots creation, too.
The firm has been part of a ground-breaking program called 43North, which
holds an annual competition where
startups square off for the chance to win
cash, incubator space and tax breaks.
Past winners include Asarasi, a company
pioneering the recovery and bottling of
water harvested from trees; and Bounce
Imaging, which makes a 360-degree
throwable camera for first-responders.
“We have supported 43North from the
beginning in a number of ways,” Dimitroff
says, “including mentoring the finalists and
The work with 43North makes sense,
considering Phillips Lytle started working
with startups nearly 200 years ago.
“One of our first startups was Marine
Trust Company, now part of HSBC Bank,”
Dimitroff says. “So when people think of
startups, they never really think of them
becoming these big multinational compa-
nies. But we’ve been doing this for a long
time. Helping startups develop and grow is
in our DNA.”
From the firm’s perch atop Buffalo, one
can look out and see the physical changes
that tell success story after success story—
with the potential for more to come.
“Companies and investors can now see
Buffalo-Niagara as a potential place to
start a business or expand,” Dimitroff says.
“Decades ago, it was hard for people to
understand the value of Buffalo, and what
an asset the city was. Today, that mindset
has changed completely.”
Abandoned for 30-plus years, the Buffalo Central Terminal is an architectural gem. The firm
represents the developer who plans to restore it.