We all see the character in the buildings of downtown Erie everyday, but what may not know, is what it takes to keep that character alive. On Monday, the Historical Society of Erie County recognized a few who make it happen.
"There's all a common theme here, of economic development, true visionaries that are helping transform the way that the city looks," said Caleb Pifer, Executive Director of the Erie County Historical Society.
Those visionaries include: Chris Sirianni of Brew Erie and Jim Berlin of Logistics Plus for their work at Union Station, Erie Insurance for restoring many homes, Brian Manyard of the Union City Historical Museum and Steve McGarvey, who passed away at age 36, but still made such an impact with Lovell Place and Modern Tool. All, Pifer say, have helped keep Erie's character in tact.
"Our old buildings are key, indigenous assets," said Howard Zemsky, a real estate developer from Buffalo, NY. "They're strengths, they're not liabilities. So they create unique spaces where people want to live, want to work, want to shop."
Zemsky, the event's keynote speaker, should know. He's seen it happen to Larkin Square in Buffalo when he took 700,000 square feet of industrial space, and redeveloped it to a place for business, fun and living.
"We went from an abandoned neighborhood to over 2,500 jobs in that area, many of them companies that grew dramatically or relocated to Western New York."
Sirianni says it's been exciting seeing the change in Union Station over the past 10 years, and he's looking forward to seeing more of it, throughout the downtown.
"I think you see it happening very slowly, it can't happen fast enough in our opinion, but it's great to get people investing, wanting to be in downtown. Then we'll see an economic spurt."
There was also a special announcement on Monday night. Starting in the fall, the planetarium, which is located at the Carriage House at the Watson-Curtze Mansion, will be gifted to Penn State Behrend. The historical society says the move will help them better focus on their mission.