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Business Leader Insights

At LeChase, we often say that building partnerships is as important as building projects. In Buffalo it’s hard to separate the two. Partnerships play an increasingly important role in the Western New York construction market. A recent feature in Buffalo Business First noted a trend toward collaboration among area developers, and as a contractor I see the effects of these formal and informal partnerships every day.

Many new jobs come to LeChase through old school word-of-mouth, and nothing makes me prouder. Our project teams are building advocacy among client partners who are happy with our work, which helps put LeChase in the conversation even when we aren’t even in the room. In fact, our involvement in two of the spotlight projects in this issue – the mixed-use development at 500 Pearl Street in downtown Buffalo and the restoration of Bent’s Opera House in Medina – resulted from conversations between developers.

What fuels this spirit of collaboration and communication? First, I think today’s strong supply of local projects makes everyone more open about sharing. Opportunities exist for a variety of partnerships and relationships to evolve. There’s also local pride. As residents who live as well as work in this community, developers and contractors want to see the recent rejuvenation and progress continue. Everyone has a personal stake in the area’s future.

If there is a challenge for LeChase in this current state, it’s the need to keep pace with the opportunities – by adding talent, embracing new technologies and growing our services to continue delivering successful projects, large or small. At the same time, today’s market reinforces the fact that we must never outgrow our commitment to provide personalized service and to build strong partnerships. It really is as important as building projects.

Project Highlights

The new Learning Commons at Niagara County Community College (NCCC) has changed the face of the suburban campus in Sanborn, N.Y.

Built on what was previously an open courtyard between the school’s library and a humanities building, the modern structure provides an obvious focal point for visitors driving in through the school’s main entrance. Even more importantly, the new Commons serves as a central space for students to gather, study and relax.

The Commons is an open, two-story atrium, with a first floor that includes a variety of moveable seating and study spaces as well as a cafe. The first floor of the adjacent library building, which connects to the Commons, was also updated as part of the project. It now houses a daycare center, offices and art gallery. Upper floors – which include a reading area on the second floor and book stacks on the third and fourth floors – received new finishes, computer/IT upgrades and sprinklers.

Work was substantially complete in July 2018 and fully opened to the public at the start of the fall semester.


  • LeChase’s role: General Trades Contractor
  • Work included
    • 13,000-SF new construction
    • updates to adjacent 88,000-SF building
  • Project valued at $25 million (LeChase portion $9 million)
  • Started: February 2017
  • Completed: August 2018

The 500 Pearl Street project combines the renovation of a historic property with construction of an edgy and modern 12-story high-rise. Located within Buffalo’s theater district, it offers something for everyone.

  • The ground floor will house a hotel lobby, restaurant and retail spaces.
  • Levels two through six have parking for more than 380 vehicles to accommodate residents, guests and the general public.
  • Levels seven and eight offer Class A office space.
  • The ninth floor will have 14 high-end apartments, two of which are 2-story apartments extending down to the 8th
  • Floors 10 through 12 will be home to a 110-room Aloft hotel.
  • A four-season rooftop bar – which will include an extensive patio area offering lounge seating, fire pits and views of the waterfront – is also in construction.

The adjacent building, formerly the Buffalo Christian Center, is being renovated to complement the new structure and will feature a pool, fitness center, large banquet facility and lounge as well as meeting spaces.

While its prime downtown location is a huge benefit for 500 Pearl Street, it also proved one of the most challenging aspects of the project. Because the site is at the corner of two busy streets and adjacent to several occupied buildings, the project team had to work through logistics of accommodating materials and deliveries. In addition, they took special care to keep the site clean and reduce noise in order to minimize disturbance to the neighbors and disruption to daily activity in the surrounding area.


  • LeChase’s role: Construction Manager
  • Work includes construction of a 12-story mixed-use structure
  • Project valued at $50 million
  • Approximate size: 400,000 SF
  • Started: January 2017
  • Expected completion: January 2019

Built more than 150 years ago, Bent’s Opera House has a rich history. For decades, it was a prime venue for concerts, shows and public functions in the village of Medina, attracting prominent entertainers like P.T. Barnum and “Buffalo Bill” Cody. In 1995, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of Medina’s Main Street Historic District.

Vacant since 2010, the three-story building – including its top-floor theater – is now undergoing a historic renovation that will give it new life and purpose within the community.

Exterior work includes restoration of the façade – made of Medina sandstone ­– as well as decorative brackets, metal column covers and original monumental windows and doors. Additional replica replacement windows will also be installed.

Inside, the updated facility will feature dining, a conference center/banquet hall and a boutique hotel. The opera house stage and mezzanine railings will be restored, as well as plaster walls, wood trim, tin ceiling tiles and the original wood flooring.

The project is scheduled for completion next summer.


  • LeChase’s role:
    • Construction Manager
    • Carpentry for Phase 1
  • Work includes:
    • structural reinforcement
    • interior and exterior renovation of historic building
  • Approximate size: 32,336 SF
  • Project valued at $9.5 million
  • Started: May 2018
  • Expected completion: August 2019