Architect and developer Jake Schneider is beginning a $10 million project with a pair of historic buildings on Niagara Street, a few blocks northwest of City Hall, that he plans to renovate and restore into as many as 40 apartments and retail space.
Schneider, who has spent 10 years rehabilitating vacant historic buildings, acquired the 60,000-square-foot structure at 285-295 Niagara St., a half-mile from Niagara Square.
Plans call for converting the former storage facility into apartments and ground-floor retail, with a rooftop deck with views of Lake Erie, downtown Buffalo and the city’s West Side.
Construction is expected to start in late summer, with completion expected by the summer of 2015.
This will be Schneider’s eighth historic reuse project in downtown Buffalo since 2003. He is finishing the conversion of 149 Swan St. into the 80,000-square-foot Apartments @ The HUB, with 50 units and a ground-floor bicycle retailer, a bike gym and a pub. That project will wrap up this summer.
Historic renovation projects have become commonplace in Buffalo with its plethora of older, architecturally significant buildings and a desire by tenants for a home with character and unique features.
“This is the type of downtown historic redevelopment we have been delivering over the past decade,” said Schneider, president and CEO of Schneider Development LLC. “We continue to see opportunity in the downtown housing market and are bullish on Niagara Street.”
The project is adjacent to the West Village Historic Preservation District. Schneider said he plans to use state and federal historic tax credits to help finance the project, and will also approach the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, National Grid USA, National Fuel Gas Co. and the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency.
Schneider is hoping the reuse project will benefit from its location “just a stone’s throw” from key markets. The building is a few blocks from the headquarters of New Era Cap Co. and HealthNow New York and near the planned 12-story office and hotel tower that will be headquarters of Delaware North Cos. It is a half-mile from the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, “so it’s a great location.”
And it is within the first part of the city’s Niagara Street Gateway Streetscape Project between Virginia Street and Niagara Square. Work is expected to start in the summer on creation or installation of new dedicated bicycle lanes, “curbed bump-outs” with “green infrastructure,” exposed aggregate and colored sidewalks, street lighting, and landscaping. Ultimately, the street transformation is intended to stretch up to Rich Products Corp.’s headquarters.
“The project is ideally located on the nexus of downtown and the West Side and can leverage the energy and momentum of both neighborhoods,” Schneider said. “The city is moving forward on some game-changing improvements for Niagara Street that will elevate and underline the importance of the corridor.” He described the Lower West Side as an “emerging neighborhood” that not only already exists – with a grocery store nearby and a Rite Aid drugstore across the street – but is “ripe” for growth.
Built in phases between 1848 and 1910, with additions dating from 1889 to 1940, the two Niagara Street buildings – one with four floors and the other with six – are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1848, the older four-story timber-frame Gothic Revival building was constructed for Turner Bros. which made and sold soda, ginger wine, sarsaparilla and other syrups. The building was later used by a children’s carriage-maker and a pedal-maker, until American Household Storage Co. bought it in 1903. American Household then added the six-story concrete-frame building in 1910.
The buildings had been owned by Frederic J. LoFaso, whose Fairmount Development sold them to Schneider’s Niagara Street Buffalo LLC for $1.35 million in late January. LoFaso, owner of Sienna Realty, had acquired them in 2007, and planned to spend $4.6 million to transform them into 21 apartments and a coffee shop.