Paula's Donuts is only part of what's building hype in the Larkin District

By James Fink
Buffalo Business First

Crews work on the new Paula’s Donuts location. (Joed Viera/Buffalo Business First)

When Leslie Zemsky talks with people at the Larkin District these days, the first question is, "When is Paula's opening?"

Paula's, as in Paula's Donuts, will set up shop at 822 Seneca St.

"For everything we've done here, people want to know about Paula's," Zemsky said.

The Larkin district has more than $150 million in developments. Many came from the Larkin Development Group, a company run by Howard and Leslie Zemsky and their business partners, Joe Petrella and Bill Jones. The bulk of those projects came online in the last decade and transformed an overlooked area into a trendy development district.

It wasn't all done by Larkin Development Group. There were others.

• Jim Cornell and Gordon Reger, both of Buffalo, spent more than $50 million to revive the Larkin Center of Commerce Building at 701 Seneca St. Tenants include M&T Bank and Eckl's restaurant.

• Buffalo Distilling Co. invested $1 million to locate to the Larkin District. Buffalo Distilling, whose signature bourbon is One Foot Cock, moved to 860 Seneca St. in 2017.

• Flying Bison Brewing Co. moved to Seneca and Lamb streets in 2014 and invested $3 million to relocate and expand.

"We are going in the direction that Howard and I envisioned," Leslie Zemsky said of Larkinville, a 1-square-mile area along Seneca Street and extending from Van Rensselaer Street to Hamburg Street. "We are becoming a destination and a neighborhood."

Zemsky's Larkin Development Group is driving much of the future projects. Among them:

• The Paula's Donut building, a $3 million investment to open in the spring.

• The $16 million residential Millrace Commons complex with 70 apartments, fire pit, outdoor pool, grills and dog park is under construction on Seneca Street and should open in late 2021.

• Still in planning is a $3 million nine-lane bowling alley at 829 Seneca St. where Gladkowski's Bowling Alley operated for decades. "It's still a go," Leslie Zemsky said, "but it may be two years off."

• Plans remain in place for a $1 million public park at Seneca and Hydraulic streets with volleyball, basketball and tennis courts.

• Zemsky said she expects to renovate the former Larkin Men's Club on Swan Street, across from the Swan Street Diner into a mixed-use building with residential and commercial tenants for a $4 million investment.

"I can't say it enough," Zemsky said. "We want Larkin to be a 24/7 neighborhood. We are getting there, bit by bit."

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First.