Vendors arrive in the Arts District on First Friday afternoon, setting up for the crowds when Blondies Bacon Creations pulls up on Main Street. “Where do you want me?” the driver shouts over the engine.
Paul Murad steps outside to finish the conversation, while Kaya Fesci’s pop-up exhibit in the makeshift gallery is ready to greet festival-goers. This 1940s building at Main and California Avenue is slated to become a new commercial development with as many as 10 tenants in retail, food and beverage. Known as the Corner Building and overseen by Murad’s Metroplex Realty (responsible for bringing Buffalo Exchange to the block), it’s undergoing renovation. The plan is to have the first tenant by summer.
“We’re going to continue doing pop-ups until the space opens,” Murad had said of the exhibit while walking us through the structure. Entering the cavernous back room with its 20-foot ceilings, he’d added, “This is a great place for a brewery.”
Architect Rob Gurdison, whose repertoire includes Hop Nuts Brewing, is working on the building’s shell. The exposed wood rafters will stay, he says, explaining that it took more than 60 years to get the look, so why ruin it? “We’re going into these spaces with very few interventions.”
The 11,000-square-foot building features a large courtyard area in back and a bank of small storefronts overlooking California Avenue and neighboring vintage palace Retro Vegas.
“It all used to happen on Main Street,” Murad says of the road’s legacy. “We want to bring it back.” Revitalization in the area has been met with mixed reviews, including by tenants affected by the shifting landscape. But Murad talks about creating a cardo, an ancient main street that often led to a palace. In this case, he says, “It’s city hall.”