For many local residents 998 Broadway is synonymous with the former Sattler's Department store. After closing in the early 1980s the old building was demolished to make way for a big box retailer. But it also closed and the site across from the Broadway Market's been vacant for more than a dozen years. Now a design competition is underway that could help breath new life in to the property on Buffalo's East Side.
The contest is part of the Yes In My Back Yard initiative led by Design Buffalo and the recently formed nonprofit Designing to Live Sustainably. The group's Vice Chair, Allison Leet says, one of the main goals is to include people living near the site and across the region.
"We want this to be a community building for the city of Buffalo. This is a very local space. A lot of people come to the Broadway Market."
When they contacted the local owners of 998 Broadway with their idea, Leet says, Cedarland Development Group was all ears.
"When we proposed having the design competition they were thrilled. And they just said that it's not a problem working with us with anything that we need and are very much looking forward to all of the ideas that they get out of this well because this is an investment for them as well. And they really do want to be respected as a company. And I think that this is great for us both hand in hand here in developing the building as well as working with the community," Leet said.
The 90,000 square foot, former Kmart store, has been vacant since 2002. And was purchased three years ago by Cedarland Development. Its Vice President Kevin Dagher says, with a large parking lot and 5 acres of land, anything's possible.
"It's a empty box. It could be turned into anything so - we've been working the last couple years on finding the right people to develop this. And I think this is going to be our year where we have something so, we're excited about it," Dagher said.
Organizers reached out to several community stakeholders including the Greater East Side Field of Dreams Block Club. Its founder, Michael Threat says, he's hoping something positive comes out of the design contest.
"Actually asking us what do we need and what do we want. That's a big change for us. Because usually anything we get down here they shove it at us. And that's something that we've been asking for a long time. Listen to us. We know what we need."
Threat's lived in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood for over 50 years. And the family he raised there lives near by.
"Our children need a place they can be safe. My grandsons, my granddaughters they need someplace to go."
Threat thinks 998 Broadway could once again be an anchor for the area and help spark the neighborhood's redevelopment. The site's big enough, he says, to become a multi-use complex with space for community meetings, a gym, senior center, sports field and ice skating rink.
"I would love to see a skating rink down there cause it gives something for the kids to do after hours - that's not hanging in the park. Not walking on the street. And if they give us our police substation that we've been waiting for the last two years to go back in to the Broadway Market, in the front, I think that that would be a big big plus," Threat said.
Cedarland's Dagher studied urban planning at UB. And he says, he's open to all ideas.
"So, I'd like to think we have a different way of doing things. We want to keep the community engaged. There's a lot going on in this community. We see houses being fixed up, you know, businesses coming here for the first time. So, we really want to be a part of all that," Dagher said.
The deadline for submissions is in mid-January. And Leet says, the winner will be unveiled at the YIMBY Community Building Festival in April.