The lead partner of architectural and design firm Carmina Wood Morris is putting his money – and home – where his heart is, moving from his home in Lancaster to a 160-year-old three-story building on the eastern edge of downtown Buffalo, a block from his firm’s headquarters.
Steven Carmina and his wife, Brenda, are buying the 4,071-square-foot masonry building on Roosevelt Plaza, at 9 Genesee St., from Nathaniel Fountain and John Greer. The Carminas have it under contract for $160,000 and plan to close by the end of May after finalizing the financing.
Built in 1845, it’s the oldest building in the Main Street-Genesee Street area, making it a fitting purchase for Carmina, whose firm has been involved in historic preservation projects in downtown Buffalo and elsewhere, including Rocco Termini’s Hotel @ the Lafayette.
The building’s second-floor picture window dates to the late 1920s, when the building housed the Manhattan Shop and King-Robinson Co., and is still intact. “It’s remarkably in good shape,” Carmina said.
Two prior attempts to convert the pre-Civil War building into loft apartments on the upper two floors and retail on the first floor never came to fruition.
Now, the Carminas plan to keep the top two floors as their residence and turn the attic into an office loft for Brenda, who coordinates the Buffalo Public Schools’ adult cosmetology and barbering program.
They also plan to put on an outdoor deck upstairs.
The bottom floor will include 500 square feet of retail space for “something really yummy” that isn’t currently available in downtown Buffalo, he said, declining to be more specific, because he’s still in discussions with possible tenants.
The exterior of the building will be restored, and Carmina is seeking photos that could help document what the original front porch looked like on the West Huron Street side.
The building is eligible for state and federal historic tax credits.
Carmina hopes to start work in June and finish by the fall. Most of that will involve “windows, some TLC and our own interiors,” he said, since the current owners have already done some work.
“My wife is probably five times more excited than I am, and I’m pretty excited,” he said. “It’ll be a labor of love. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
The proposal will come before the Preservation Board on Thursday and the City Planning Board on May 21.
Ironically, he won’t be able to escape construction work by going to his office.
The part of Main Street in front of his firm’s headquarters at 487 Main will be under construction at the same time to return car traffic to the area. Within a year, though, both should be done, he said.
“It’s pretty great to work down here, and it’ll be even more fun to live down here,” he said.
“I’ll be able to walk to work in my bunny slippers.”