Termini pushes tax-free downtown zone for Canadian shoppers

Dec 26, 2012

A local developer is continuing to push a unique plan for revitalizing downtown Buffalo's central business district.

Developer Rocco Termini, who is well-known for renovating historic buildings like the Hotel @ the Lafayette, is calling for the creation of a sales tax-free zone downtown for Canadian shoppers. Termini says Main Street's vacant storefronts are ideal.

"We would put deep-discounted outlet stores with quality products in all those stores. We would become the shopping mall for Toronto. I think that's what you need to rebuild downtown," Termini said.

Canadian shoppers already travel to Western New York for lower prices. Termini says many more would make the trip if they could save nearly 30 percent on goods compared to shopping in Ontario.

"People would come downtown to stay overnight. They would go to shows, they would go to restaurants, and we would be able to build a whole new industry here."

Approval would have to come from the state and Erie County, but Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says he believes the idea is worth exploring.  

"Downtown is growing very nicely and very quickly, and looking to return retail to downtown Buffalo, an idea like this is certainly something that could jumpstart that and bring hundreds of thousands of Canadian shoppers into our downtown area," Brown told WBFO News.

According to Termini, Canadians are "the salvation of Buffalo," but he says for his idea to work to its fullest potential, the government will have to make it easier to cross the border.

"[If] you go to Europe, there's no impediments from country to country," Termini said. "Why do we have to have such very difficult border crossing rules and regulations here in Buffalo across the Peace Bridge?"