The Revitalization of Buffalo

A few weeks ago, Buffalo Business First published an editorial on our own Michael Bray, who was recently promoted to Partner, and how he and the rest of our team support Buffalo's revitalization. In case you missed it, we wanted to share it with you here!

"Architect Michael Bray started the new year with a bang, receiving the news during Christmas week that Carmina Wood Morris DPC was promoting him from senior associate to partner. He joined the architecture, engineering and interior design firm as lead draftsman in 2001 and has been there ever since, handling project management for clients stretching from Batavia to Niagara Falls. And he’s loved every minute, saying the constant challenge of the job gets his creative juices going. Bray has come a long way from his college days when he set up a drafting table in his bedroom in the family home in Williamsville. Little did he know then that he would have a hand in high-profile restoration and adaptive-reuse projects including Compass East, the Tishman Building, Hotel@The Lafayette, AM&A’s Warehouse Lofts, 100 South, the Calumet Building and Hyatt Place in Niagara Falls.

On the firm’s move from Amherst to Olympic Towers downtown and then to 487 Main St.: Our idea by being down here was to contribute to the revitalization. Steve (Carmina) had this idea right from the beginning; he wanted us to be part of it. We wanted to help bring Buffalo back and contribute as best we can. It was weird at first: I had been going to a suburb to work and coming downtown was not something I normally did. ... It was a stagnant environment (years ago). It is night and day now. Buffalo is on the move, that’s for sure, and we feel like we’ve been a part of that. ... This was the Childs company building. The first two floors were a beautiful restaurant with all of this wonderful plasterwork in it and the upper floors were offices. Then it changed, in the 1980s, to a McDonald’s, the only two-story McDonald’s in the area. They ripped out every beautiful piece of plaster and redid the whole thing. Then that closed. It was gutted and then in 2004 Steve and Chris (Wood) and Jon (Morris) — who were the partners then — purchased the building. We designed our offices for the fifth and sixth floors.

On the firm practicing what it preaches in terms of preservation and reuse: That was part of our goal: being a permanent resident of downtown Buffalo. We want to help Buffalo continue this boom and growth and really make it the center of attention. I think Buffalonians are gaining the confidence that their city means something more than it used to. ... It’s the revitalization of all these old buildings, and it just gives people new confidence in their city.

On his first major project: It was with Zaepfel Development and it was the IIMAK manufacturing facility at Northpointe (Commerce Park in Amherst). That was really interesting. We were just starting to develop the entire Northpointe parkway. Steve had already done one or two buildings on the site, but this one was a paper manufacturing facility. He had started drafting it before I got there. It was a very large project, 40,000 square feet, I think. I had transitioned from (residential work) and maybe some middle-scale commercial stuff, so this was a big deal. You’re either going to make it or you’re not. That was a big learning curve but it was great. I thrive on that.

On achieving partner: This has been a lifelong dream and goal, not to just become an architect but to really contribute. I learn something new every day. That’s the really interesting part of this career: It’s constantly changing. You’re meeting new people, solving problems, giving people space to live, work and have fun in. That’s what we do. Every client is different and every building is different.

On a year of pro-bono work at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda: I designed the entire Kiddieland exhibit. Three generations of my family have been involved there. My great-great-grandfather was one of the artists who painted the murals on the carrousels. Then my great-grandfather was a carving foreman for the horses. And my dad helped to build the carrousel in 1983 and is a board member today."

— Jane Schmitt