Mar 22


Downtown hostel gets a reprieve

City development agency has ordered the hostel to vacate by Monday in anticipation of construction to adjacent building. The hostel lobbied to stay open through the April 8 solar eclipse. The city agreed at the 11th hour.

The Hostel Buffalo-Niagara downtown Buffalo.

The city has backed off its insistence that Hostel Buffalo-Niagara vacate its downtown location on Monday, allowing it to host visitors for the April 8 solar eclipse. 

Work to stabilize an adjacent structure to the rear is scheduled to start soon and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, owner of the two buildings, said it would be unsafe for the hostel to remain open during the work. Hostel managers lobbied for an extension to accommodate the visitors who have booked for the eclipse.

“So as to not inconvenience the out-of-town visitors for this historic event, BURA has decided to offer a conditional final extension to April 15,” Hope Young-Watkins, BURA’s senior director, said in a statement to Investigative Post.

Young-Watkins complained that the hostel continued to book reservations for the eclipse even after BURA initially issued an order to vacate by March 25.

It has also come to BURA’s attention that the Hostel proceeded to book rooms for the solar eclipse event, instead of honoring the request to vacate by March 25th,” she said in her statement. 

“We’re thankful for the city to announce an extension,” the hostel’s manager Jonathan Piret told Investigative Post via text.

“These are reservations we started receiving last spring. It goes without saying the city has made a lot of happy little eclipsers from all over the globe!”

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Inspections last year by the city and an engineering consultant found the vacant, rear section of the hostel building has deteriorated to the point that it could jeopardize the structural integrity of the hostel. The rear building, which faces Washington Street, is separate but attached to the hostel building at 667 Main St. 

Hostel Buffalo-Niagara is across the street from Shea’s Performing Arts Center, two doors down from the Town Ballroom. A nonprofit, it’s been operating at the site since 1996. 

City building inspectors in April 2023 cited the Washington Street portion of the property for nine violations, including water damage to the roof, floor and electrical panels, which supply the hostel with its power.

In a separate report, engineering consultant DiDonato Associates concluded the roof of the rear structure could threaten the hostel due to shared north and south walls. DiDonato recommended the entire building be evacuated while steps are taken to shore up the rear structure.

“It is only a matter of time before sections of the roof and floor systems start to cave in if no structural intervention is undertaken,” the July report said.

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In November, the BURA board voted unanimously to approve renovations to 664 Washington St. — a building attached to the rear of the hostel, which faces Main Street — not to exceed $2 million in cost. 

BURA subsequently told the hostel to vacate by March 1. It later pushed the date back to March 25. It’s now April 15. 

“The recommendation of the A&E professional was that during the time of construction, we would need this building to be vacated for the safety of all and we are working on a timeline right now as to when the actual notice to receive for construction will begin,” Young-Watkins told the Council during Tuesday’s meeting.

In addition to paying for structural repairs, the agency is giving the hostel first dibs on redeveloping the attached building. The hostel only has a year to submit plans and raise funds for the purchase.

“BURA remains committed to restoring and stabilizing the structure to make it safe for continued use, both now and in the future,” Young-Watkins said in her statement.

Investigative Post

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