A developer plans to revitalize two downtown buildings, each more than a century old, with a mix of apartments and first-floor space dedicated to bicycling.
The project, called the Apartments at the HUB, will rejuvenate 145 and 149 Swan St., between Michigan Avenue and Elm Street, said Jake Schneider, president of Schneider Development. The estimated cost is $13.5 million.
Schneider has experience in downtown apartments with projects like the Warehouse Lofts at 210 Ellicott St. and the Lofts at the 136, which converted the former Alling & Cory warehouse. Both of those are full.
Schneider sees continued demand as downtown living has grown in appeal in Buffalo. “It’s been a slow process, but that has ramped up and gained momentum,” he said.
The new project, which Schneider expects to open in spring 2014, adds a twist with the Western New York Bicycling Center planned for the first floor.
The Bike Shop, a retail bicycle and repair shop owned by Adam Trost and Rebecca Erb, plans to relocate there from East Aurora. The bicycling center will rent bikes to tour nearby destinations like the Larkin District, Canalside and the outer harbor. There will also be a bicycle fitness and commuter facility with lockers and showers, and a conference center for bicycle clubs and not-for-profit bicycle-related community groups.
Erb said the Bike Shop has been successful in East Aurora, but the owners have been eager to join the downtown scene, where the shop can reach a bigger audience. “We want more buzz. We want more people in and out of our door,” Erb said.
Many members of the shop’s racing team live downtown, she said.
The Bicycling Center will include bicycles and memorabilia loaned by James Sandoro, founder of the nearby Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, for display in a Western New York Bicycle Museum at the property. “I’ve had a collection for years I’ve never really put on display because I never had the room,” Sandoro said. “I think it adds another dimension to his endeavor.”
Merge restaurant, owned by Schneider’s daughters, will operate a cafe and bar, including an enclosed patio facing Michigan. “We kind of want to be known as the center of the bicycling culture,” Schneider said.
Housing at the HUB will consist of 50 market-rate apartments, a mix of one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 1,020 to 1,345 square feet. The property will have a rooftop garden and a fire pit to encourage outdoor gatherings. The project will have 63 surface parking spots and 21 underground.
Schneider plans to complete his purchase of 145 and 149 Swan St. this week. A tenant of 149 Swan, Service Canvas, is relocating. The properties are otherwise vacant, except for some use for storage.
The project’s “hub” name plays off the bicycle connection, as well as the two properties’ location, Schneider said. “This is really the center of all the traffic patterns in and around downtown.”
The building at 145 Swan St. was built in 1908; 149 Swan was built in 1896. The two buildings have a total of 80,000 square feet.
Schneider said he will add green space, and he is talking to the city about making physical improvements around the area, such as improved landscaping, sidewalks and lighting. More broadly, he is eager to see the city create a “greenway” that would link the Larkin District to downtown.
Schneider credited Sandoro with setting the tone for renewed investment in the neighborhood where Apartments at the HUB is taking shape. “He’s done phenomenal work. If it wasn’t for that [transportation museum], we wouldn’t be here,” he said.