Paramount Theater / Nemmer Furniture Building / City Centre Condominiums
600 Main Street, Buffalo, NY

Conversion to condominiums completed:
Conversion developers:
Bradshaw Hovey, Doug Swift: 'Sometimes you gotta take a risk'
2016 - First four floors:
Commercial space
2016 - Upper 10 floors:

Left horizontal building: 2 Fountain Plaza Bank of America ...   Tan colored building to right of Bank of America: 40 Fountain Plaza Key Center ... Blue tinted glass building: City Centre ... Right of City Centre: 620 Main Street

City Centre reflection on the glass

Main Street facade

Rear of building ... Pearl Street elevation.

Postmodern features: Broken pediment roofs  ...  Balconies  ...  Stringcourse  ...  Color.
International style feature: Curtain wall

New Great Lakes Theater ... Became Paramount Theater ... Immediate right of Great Lakes: Dickinson Jewelry Store / Levy King & White Building

From New Great Lakes Theater to Paramount to Nemmer Furniture to City Centre

Then and Now: Massive Change
By Steel
Pub. in Buffalo Rising on March 28, 2008
(online may 2016)

The Nemmer Building started out life as the New Great Lakes Theater. Later it came under control of the Paramount movie studios and was renamed. For much of the 20th century it was at the nexus of Buffalo’s entertainment district. It was not Buffalo’s most grand movie palace but was still quite elaborate and seated about 3000 people. As recently as the early 60’s this block was extremely vibrant. It was packed with theaters, restaurants and nightclubs. In very short order it crashed.

By the 1970’s this area now known as the Theater District was mostly vacant. Building owners stopped investing in their property and the grand old movie palaces either closed down or converted to low budget and X-rated fare.

Nearby Chippewa Street became Buffalo’s red light district. Decent people in Buffalo spent little if any time in this area anymore. After the theater closed (I am not sure when) the auditorium portion at the rear was demolished and the front (Main Street) portion was converted to retail use. The old theater facade was unusual in that it was very restrained with a simple solid brick wall decorated with a diamond pattern of multi colored brick.

There were a few very modest classical details. Compare this picture to Shea's Buffalo Main Street facade. It was not a very attractive building especially with its huge vertical movie sign and marquee removed. The front facade looked very much like a common 1920’s building type designed for “fire proof” storage. I am guessing that this is very likely what it was used for above the grand theater lobby.

After many fits and starts the building was finally completed. Several additional floors were constructed on top of the original concrete frame and the building was re-clad in shiny blue glass. A parking structure was also added at the back (more on that one in the future). The only hint of ‘what was’ are the arched entry ways at the first floor and two small classical column capitals about 2/3 up the facade. The result is not an award winner but is certainly an improvement.

What it looked like Wednesday: City Centre/Nemmer Furniture
By Steve Cichon
Pub. in The Buffalo News
(online May 2016)

By 1975, the Main Street building that was the longtime home to Buffalo’s long-vaunted Nemmer Furniture had fallen on hard times. Years’ worth of back taxes were owed on the building. Once “the home of nine floors of furniture,” the building just north of Chippewa was mostly vacant save “Smiley’s Adult Books, Films & Magazines.”

Nemmer Furniture began selling the upholstered items it manufactured at its Genesee Street factory in 1924, but didn't move its showroom to the 600 block of Main Street until 1957. Before that, the building was the home to Select Furniture.

After Nemmer closed in the early ’70s, the building sat mostly vacant until the late ’80s when plans emerged for the addition of several floors and it the new condo development was dubbed “City Centre.” Work began in 1991, but ground to a halt in 1995 when the project wound up in bankruptcy.

After a decade of stops and starts, by the early 2000s, City Centre was acknowledged as Buffalo’s first successful downtown condominium project.

A 1992 News editorial summed up the building’s story quite well. “As the Nemmer building, it would have hurt downtown. As a vacant lot, it would have marred the street vista. As City Centre, it can sparkle as a gift to better days in downtown Buffalo.”

In 1996, the former Paramount Theater/Nemmer Building was completely renovated and converted from a nine story furniture store and warehouse building into a fourteen story mixed- use City Centre building.

The Paramount Theater opened May 30,1927 as the Fox Great Lakes theater on the parcel currently identified as 598 Main St (alternate address: 600 Main St). It was designed by architect was Leon H. Lempert, Jr with interior designer Gustave Brandt.

Presently [2013], the 600 block of Main Street is the first block of the above ground section of Buffalo Metro Rail under construction to return vehicular traffic to Main Street.
- 2013 Preservation Ready Survey of Buildings Downtown, Northland and Fougeron/Urban Survey Areas, Section 4, p.18 (online May 2016)

Color photos and their arrangement ?2016 Chuck LaChiusa
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