500 Seneca expands, opens doors for small businesses

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For years a warehouse at 500 Seneca street sat empty— a symbol of the economic decline in the city of buffalo. But, with the help of a 44 million dollar investment, the building is getting new life, and is becoming a symbol of the city’s economic turnaround.

The first business to move into the 500 Seneca building is called Animal Outfitters.  The owner tells us he wanted to capitalize on the growing business in the Hydraulic District.

Omar Zahzouhi, President of Animal Outfitters said, “Buffalo at the beginning was very tough, when I moved here 25 years ago.”

But in the past decade, Omar Zahzouhi, originally from Morocco, has seen a lot of change, nd his business has grown with the city.

He said, “It’s just one of the feelings when I moved in here and I fell in love with the place.”

This is the second location for Animal Outfitters. They first opened on Elmwood Avenue.  It’s one of 16 small businesses here- and lives below almost 100 apartments.

Many of his clients, and their pets, live in the building. He said, “I start talking to people and we form a family before you know it they call me Uncle Omar. Because I know their first name, their last name. I know their dog, I know where they live.”

To turn this building around it took cash. Besides the partners’ own equity, the project was funded using a combination of $12 million dollars in state and federal historic tax credits. Some businesses like Animal Outfitters are funded through private money and bank loans. Michael Muscato, a small business banker with First Niagara said, “Finally things are starting to turn the corner here in Western New York and it’s through small businesses like Animal Outfitters and their growth and taking  a chance.” For years, the seven-story former F.N. Burt Warehouse was a poster child for Buffalo’s economic decline. But the building is close to the highway and the hospitals, and has become the latest hot spot in Buffalos’ city skyline.

” A lot of it starts I believe with all the businesses who have been around here and have weathered the storm and those folks that are now moving into the community.”

The space at 500 Seneca has become so popular that all of the apartments and leasing space here have already been rented out. Although News 4 is told that construction is already underway on the building next door.

If you’d like to contact Animal Outfitters, you can call Omar Zahzouhi at 716.436.4553

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