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A well-known onetime giant freezer building near the First Niagara Center and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino will become apartments, offices and a restaurant with a banquet room, under a proposal by Ellicott Development Co. that will come before city planners next month.

Ellicott wants to convert the eight-story Coffee Rich building at 199 Scott St. into a project that could be half-filled with tenants before it is even completed.

The now-empty structure is perhaps best-known now for the words “Coffee Rich” painted on the top edge of its facade facing the Niagara Thruway, as well as a political billboard put up by Ellicott Development owner Carl Paladino.

The $14 million investment calls for about 20 market-rate units, with a mixture of one- and two-bedroom apartments, and possibly others depending on market demand, said Ellicott CEO Bill Paladino. Those units may only take up a few floors, or the residential space could be expanded to three or four floors if needed.

Much of the rest of the 115,000-square-foot building would be occupied by offices for several tenants. Paladino said the company has “a particular tenant in mind” that he would not name, and the rest would be speculative space.

“Everything’s still being planned, but we have conceptually what we want to do,” he said. “There’s a lot of market demand out there, or we wouldn’t be spending that much money on starting the project. The building needs to be cleaned up before people find it as attractive as we see it can be. The building’s very ornate.”

Additionally, the building would feature a 3,000-square-foot restaurant, with a small attached banquet facility to handle small meetings, conferences and luncheons. Paladino said there are “a few different parties” looking into that space, but the type of restaurant would depend on which one is selected.

“We hope to have up to half the building spoken for with what we’re looking at,” he said. “It’s a very speculative project, but we feel that if we get the project going, the building cleaned up, landscaped, the parking lot all done, it’ll be much more attractive to potential new users.”

On the outside, the developer plans to clean up the facade, including removing the Coffee Rich words. The billboard will stay.

“It’s totally cleaned out right now,” he said, emphasizing that the building is “structurally sound” and “very solid.”

The warehouse was originally the home of the Fairmont Creamery Co., a wholesale dairy distributor that opened there in the 1920s, across from Booth Fisheries, another distributor. Both were located near the former Elk Street Market, which dated back to 1845. Later, the space was shared by Arctic Freezer Co. and Rich Products Co., maker of Coffee Rich nondairy creamers. “It’s one big freezer,” Paladino said.

If approved by the city, Paladino said work would start in the summer, with the first tenants moving in by late summer or early fall. The project would be done in phases over five years, as different tenants or uses are found, but Paladino expects it will include a mix of restaurant, residential and office regardless. “The question is to what extent,” he said. “The market will dictate that.”

The project comes before the Buffalo Planning Board April 9 at 8:15 a.m.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com