Tuesday, September 25, 2007 - 1:37 PM EDT
Main Street site eyed for apartments
Business First of Buffalo - by James Fink Business First
A series of long-vacant Main Street buildings are under consideration for residential-based, mixed-use development.
Local developer Rocco Termini confirmed he is moving ahead with a $15 million project that could see as many as 42 new apartments come to significant portions of Main Street's "500 Block" and some adjoining Washington Street property. The plan includes building a multi-level parking ramp at the corner of Washington and Mohawk streets, currently a surface parking lot exists, to service to apartment's residents and nearby businesses.
Termini said he has a series of buildings under contract, beginning at 501 Main Street and running south to 515 Main Street. The buildings include two that date back to the late 1800s and a sliver of an empty parcel that once served as portion of the fabled Century Theater. The project -- Century City Lofts -- takes its name from the theater.
If built, the project would address one of downtown's biggest eyesores, a series of blighted buildings along the 500 block. The ripple effect is already being felt with Buffalo City Hall officials confirming that Iskalo Development wants to acquire a former two-story Burger King restaurant at the corner of Main and Mohawk streets for a separate mixed-use project.
Termini meet briefly with the Buffalo Planning Board on Tuesday to discuss the project. His next step is to appear before the Buffalo Preservation Board to land historic district designation for the project, a move that opens the door for tax credits and incentives needed to make it financially viable. Termini is also seeking new market tax credits and incremental PILOT financing from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to cover fiscal gaps in the project.
Termini, whose downtown residential projects include the IS Lofts and the recently-opened Webb Building, said the project is being driven by the continued demand for affordably priced apartments in the central business district. Termini noted his IS Lofts building has a 200-person waiting list.
"There is a big market in downtown for apartments with lower rents," he said.
Tentative plans, according Termini's architect, Jon Morris, a partner in Carmina & Wood Architecture & Engineering P.C., call for all of the apartments to have one bedroom and be about 670-square-feet.
The Main Street buildings will each be three stories with a common upper-level walkway connecting the structures.
"These buildings are worthless alone," Termini said. "Only when they are combined are they worth something."
While the buildings are predominately vacant, some have a smattering of retail on their respective first floors. Termini declined to comment on his plans for the first floors of the buildings once the projects are completed.
"They will be mixed use," he said.
Mixed-use development is essential to secure new market tax credits.
Pending various municipal approvals, Termini hopes to start work on the project by next spring. It should take between six months and nine months to complete, he said.