The only Hostel operating in Buffalo has been condemned by BURA; the next steps are unclear.

Less than 48 hours after the solar eclipse darkened the sky over downtown Buffalo, the lights are out at Hostel Buffalo-Niagara.

City officials with the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency entered the building, located at 677 Main Street in the heart of the Theatre District, just before noon on Wednesday, accompanied by representatives from National Grid to conduct an inspection of the building’s electrical wiring. By just after 1 p.m., the building’s power was cut and the front door papered with official documents saying the hostel was condemned by the Buffalo Fire Department.  

“The City of Buffalo Department of Permits and Inspection Services conducted a review of the structure, noticed a safety issue with the electrical system, and called in National Grid. National Grid independently advised BURA of imminent danger and required that the electricity be disconnected,” according to a statement attributed to Hope Young-Watkins, senior director of the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, referenced by multiple outlets

Buffalo Hostel Has Had Ongoing Issues

This is the latest development in what’s been an ongoing struggle between the hostel, the only one of its kind in Western New York, and the city, dating back several years. 

BURA initially ordered the hostel to vacate and close down on March 1 before delaying the action to March 25, but the hostel’s leadership successfully secured an extension through Monday’s eclipse, saying it was fully booked for the event and closing before April 8 would cause financial harm at an already precarious time. BURA agreed and allowed the hostel to stay open, giving the organization an April 15 deadline. 

The hostel has to close due to the deteriorated state of an adjacent building on Washington Street, also owned by BURA; that building was reported to be in such a state of disrepair it was said to threaten the safety of the hostel. 

Hostel Currently Has Guests

At the time of its closure Wednesday afternoon, eight guests remained at the hostel, the Buffalo News reports. 

BURA said it was “working to make accommodations for existing occupants. The construction process will proceed as planned. BURA remains committed to making the structure safe for continued use,” Young-Watkins said in a statement. 

According to a letter dated March 28 and presented at the last BURA board meeting, Jason Ciurzynski, a senior structural engineer with the engineering firm of Foit-Albert Associates, said he inspected the building at 664 Washington Street on March 21 and found that while the “wood joists and decking are significantly deteriorated throughout all floors and the roof,” the steel frame throughout the building, in addition to exterior load-bearing walls “appeared to be in stable condition.” Further, the letter notes it is “commonplace throughout the construction industry to perform rehabilitation projects on portions of a building while other portions remain occupied. It would be appropriate and expected with the standard of care employed by both designers and contractors that the project would employ a sequence of operations such that only portions of the structure are removed and replaced prior to moving on to another segment,”  meaning that “the replacement project should pose no immediate concern to the west (occupied) portion of the structure if proper construction safety methods are utilized by the contractor.” 

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In other words, the firm suggested the hostel could remain open and operational through the construction process, which is likely to continue on through the summer months when tourism is usually at its peak for the year and visitors from around the world have frequented the hostel, due to its less expensive accommodations. For comparison, one night at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Conference Center was priced at $105 per night as of Wednesday evening, while a room at the Best Western on Delaware Avenue a mile away was priced at $162 per night,  a room at the hostel could go from anywhere between $35 per night for a single bed in a female dorm-style room to $186 per night to reserve an eight-bed co-ed group room. 


Hostel management has been concerned it will not be permitted to reopen inside the building where it has operated since 1996, but the city has reportedly offered the hostel the opportunity to buy this building and the neighboring one on Washington Street once repairs are completed.

BURA officials have reportedly stated that the construction work set to repair and shore up the integrity of the building would include a new electrical panel, a new roof, updated plumbing, and a new firewall to make the building safer. No timeline was provided for how long the project might take to complete. 

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