Laying the Groundwork for Buffalo’s Renaissance

Mark Cerrone, Inc.

Mark Cerrone, Inc. is a diversified civil site contractor and construction company that serves Western New York with its range of site and construction services. Throughout the decades, the company has developed the capacity to take a project from demolition through to landscaping and everything in between.

At Mark Cerrone it’s not simply about completing project deliverables; it’s about being best in class in all that it does. Since 1999, the company has continued to grow its offerings, resources and capabilities and at the same time, has established itself and its reputation in the market as a company that can do it all and do it all well.

George Lodick, Director of Operations, discussed how the company’s namesake, Mark Cerrone, established the company in Western New York. “Mark started doing whatever he could back in 1999 when he went on his own. He did small commercial, small residential, built some buildings, rented apartments, and did whatever he could do to develop his business. And as he grew, opportunities arose.”

While clients call on the company for construction and demolition work, asbestos abatement and environmental remediation, site work, industrial maintenance, underground utilities, athletic fields, transportation infrastructure upgrade work and rail work is keeping the company busy as of late.

“The market has been strong,” said Lodick. “There’s a lot of energy and activity in New York, Buffalo in particular. Buffalo had been behind for so many years as a rust belt city; there is a renewed interest in development, including taking on old gems, architectural wonders that have been languishing.”

One such project is Buffalo’s new Amtrak station located in the city’s downtown. Drawing on its experience from its work on the Niagara Falls Intermodal Terminal three years ago, the Exchange Street Station will serve as a modern connection to the Canalside district, designed to be at ground level to ensure safety and improve accessibility for passengers with no disruption to rail service.

“It’s a job where we have to coordinate with Amtrak, CSX, and the New York Department of Transportation to make sure that everything lines up – and of course, the general contractor who is building the actual platform and station. There’s obviously a lot of strict dimensioning and specifications for rail height: where the rail meets the platform it has to comply to ADA codes,” Lodick said.

Reflecting on the job and the success Mark Cerrone has had, Lodick explained, “I don’t think he [Mark Cerrone] ever would have imagined that twenty years later that we would be taking that rail knowledge to actually help rebuild downtown Buffalo. Working on industrial rail was still three or four years out for Mark back in ‘99. So that’s the kind of thing where we’ve actually been fortunate by being diversified and we’ve managed to continue to adapt to the different changes in the market.”

The Cars Sharing Main Street project is another great opportunity for Mark Cerrone to have a positive impact on the City of Buffalo. In the 1980s, car traffic was eliminated from Main Street in favor of aboveground light rail rapid transit in the city’s downtown core. Over the last decade, moves have been made to reopen Main Street to vehicle traffic, allowing them to share the road with the rail system.

“In the first two phases that we worked on, we opened up the 500 block and the 600 block of Main Street. Now we’re working in the 100 block,” said Lodick of the project. Mark Cerrone is tasked with redoing the rail portion and opening it up to vehicle traffic, as well as some of the streetscapes to further revitalize the Canalside district, rehabilitating lower Main Street in the process.

Mark Cerrone is also working on the D.L.&W. Terminal Phase One that will see the railyard for the light rail rapid transit system in Buffalo updated, including the preparation of the first floor of the terminal building, which is a classic railroad station that hasn’t been in use since the 1950s. “The actual terminal is not there but the car house where you would board the trains is still there and that’s used as storage,” explained Chris Ganje, Project Manager. The project will see the conversion of the space into storage and something more vibrant and useful that engages the public.

“The owner, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, is going to be converting that terminal building into a station on the light rail line. They are taking the second story and using it for public space, retail and restaurants, which will improve public access to the waterfront,” Lodick noted.

“We’re also updating all of the train control and electrical throughout the entire 100, 500 and 600 blocks,” said Ganje, which is a major component of the project and will integrate the systems that manage transportation and pedestrian traffic to ensure coordinated safety.

Safety plays a significant role in these projects, especially when an event is taking place at KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo, when upwards of 20,000 people maneuver through construction activities and construction sites on their way to the arena. Life and business doesn’t stop for construction and Mark Cerrone can tell you that. The company has been able to bid on and win these projects because it repeatedly demonstrates that it can fulfill project deliverables on time and on budget, while managing site and public safety, as well as client expectations across the range of projects it undertakes.

As demonstrated by the highlighted projects, Mark Cerrone thrives in a multitude of environments, chiefly those that are high-profile, high-visibility and have absolutely no margin for error. The company has a lot to be proud of.

Discussing the precision required when it comes to specifications and coordination on these projects, Lodick explained, “For the rail work we’re doing on the lower Main Street project for the City of Buffalo, the rail for the D.L.&W. terminal has to connect, so they actually marry each other and integrate,” which requires careful coordination and communication across project activities.

Working together with its partners, Mark Cerrone is proud to be a part of Buffalo’s Renaissance. Through its work, neighborhoods like Canalside are no longer blighted. Buffalo has changed significantly over the decades to become a place residents and visitors are attracted to, drawn to the amenities and events taking place along the revitalized Buffalo River waterfront.

“We have one of our best teams there,” said Lodick. “It’s exciting to be working in the area. We’ve been in the Canalside of Buffalo since the first phases of this project going back to 2009, so it’s nice to see the continued evolution, piece by piece how it’s coming together as this real core area in this Renaissance of Buffalo over the last decade – and we’ve been part of it. We’ve touched about every piece of it and we want to keep that going,” he said, referring to the untouched blocks awaiting redevelopment.

Part of the core mission at Mark Cerrone is to leave its communities better than they were previously, and the company takes the approach, “If you are blessed, you need to be a blessing to somebody,” a philosophy inspired by the company’s namesake. It’s about being more than best in class in construction; it’s about being best in class from top to bottom. “We want to provide high quality construction services in our community and to really be a force for change,” said Lodick.

Mark Cerrone’s principled values remain an important part of the company’s culture, purpose and success, as it continues to impact the community through both the projects it completes and the charitable causes it supports. The company has pride but remains humble. “The kind of construction that we do ultimately becomes invisible in some ways down the road,” explained Lodick. “It’s nice to see Canalside having a positive impact on the culture of Buffalo,” and it’s enough knowing that the company played a part.

“Over the last ten years,” Lodick said, “we have touched every major development in that sector in some way or another. After the work is complete, most will not remember that Mark Cerrone built a road or a fountain or a rail yard; to us, what matters more is that we made a positive impact on the community and we were part of that dynamic that changed Buffalo. Seeing that one underutilized area as rallying point for community spirit is most gratifying.”

Knowing that there is still work to be done, the goal is to continue to succeed from both a project and a community perspective to be profitable, reputable and most importantly best in class, which will afford Mark Cerrone the opportunity to continue to give back to the community.

“We want to continue to provide high quality, best in class construction services, treat our people as family, build a team of good people that take pride in their work, and we have a long-term vision which is ultimately to leave a mark,” said Lodick – which Mark Cerrone, Inc. will surely continue to do for years to come.

July 3, 2020, 6:06 AM EDT