Plans for new apartments along the Buffalo River were approved by the city Planning Board on Tuesday, though a crucial approval from the Preservation Board is still necessary.
Developer Samuel J. Savarino plans to invest $18 million to “deconstruct” the historically significant Erie Freight House on Ohio Street and in its place build Buffalo River Lofts, one- and two-bedroom apartments and office space.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” said Planning Board member Horace Gioia.
The building is in bad shape, Savarino said, and he hopes that some of the building materials can be repurposed in another building.
The site is not a state or national landmark, but it is a local landmark, and the city’s Preservation Board must approve the new development. Savarino avoided saying he is seeking to demolish the property, calling it a “deconstruction,” but it’s unclear whether the Preservation Board will see it that way.
Preservation Buffalo Niagara has praised the project, but that group does not represent all of the city’s Preservation Board members.
City Preservation Board member Tim Tielman said he hadn’t discussed the matter with the board but doubted it would grant permission to demolish the structure.
“It’s a city landmark. It deserves that status,” he said.
Tielman said too much history in the Old First Ward has been demolished.
Savarino hopes the project will open as publicly funded improvements along Ohio Street also are completed and said changes in the design were made in consultation with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, which had a goal of adding more activity along the river.
The project won’t allow public water access immediately, but the potential is there, Savarino said. The project keeps existing piers.
The project includes 62 one-bedroom units and 16 two-bedroom units. Parking for tenants will be underneath the building, with a screened lot for visitors.
In other business Tuesday:
• Plans for new public housing on scattered sites on the East Side were approved by the board, though two neighbors said they opposed the project.
The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is planning A.D. Price Housing Phase III on Peckham, Madison and Spring streets and Jefferson Avenue. The project includes 50 new rental houses designed to last 75 years, which do not look like each other and have features that mimic other houses in the neighborhood.
Two neighbors said they feared what would happen if tenants who are not responsible for keeping up the properties move in. The board stipulated that the Housing Authority consult with a group of neighboring homeowners during and after construction.
• The board asked that plans for a Dollar General at 663 E. Ferry St. be revised to make the site look less like a suburban store. The board requested that the building be moved closer to the street and that the parking spaces be moved to surround the store, instead of putting all of the spaces in front of the store. The store will be affiliated with True Bethel Baptist Church.
• A site plan for a new 4,000-square-foot home on a vacant lot at 136 Middlesex Road was approved.
• Plans for a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant at 2106 Elmwood Ave., in front of Aldi, were approved, as were expansion plans for Mount Aaron Baptist Church at 540 Genesee St. and plans for a new CVS Pharmacy at Kenmore and Englewood avenues.