A 133-year-old lumber mill in downtown Buffalo, reborn as a string of restaurants and night clubs in the 1990s, is being pitched as the next great place to redevelop.
The former E.M. Hager Lumber Mill, at 141 Elm Street, which was once home to the Spaghetti Warehouse, is up for sale. The asking price is $950,000.
The 44,000-square-foot, three-story brick structure, was built in 1873 as a wood fabrication plant which turned out intricate woodwork for St. Louis Roman Catholic Church and Pan American Exposition buildings.
In 1988, the Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant chain spent $1.5 million to convert the mill to a 15,000-square-foot eatery. After the chain left town in 1996, it had brief runs as Your Father's Mustache, Sweetwaters, and Sensation'z nightclub.
While it has sat idle since 2004, current owner Kevin Townsell looked into converting it to loft apartments. His $3.5 million plan called for the building to house 29 residential units, ranging in size from 600 square feet, up to 1,600 square feet.
Unlike most downtown redevelopment sites, Hager Mills has on site parking for 100 cars, and additional slots available at a public ramp across the street.
Townsell said while he still believes his loft apartment plan is worth pursuing, he said he doesn't have time to take it on.
"I have all the architectural plans, appraisals and it's been reviewed by the city. I'd love to do it, but I'm just up to my ears in other things," said Townsell, who also owns the Shannon Pub.
Robert Roller, of CB Richard Ellis real estate, said the property has attracted quite a few inquiries since it was put on the market a few weeks ago. While he agrees with Townsell's assessment that it has potential as downtown housing, it's location and zoning open the door to a wide variety of reuses.
"It's M-1, which is light industrial, so it could be just about anything, even light manufacturing," Roller said.
He said among the local and out-of-town inquiries was a call from a national restaurant chain. Roller noted that the building was gutted after Sensation'z closed and the contents of the building were auctioned off, leaving it a blank canvas for whatever a new owner can dream up.
Among the building's remaining pre-1900 charms include large, exposed wood beams and brick walls throughout. More recent updates include new electrical wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling systems and a full building sprinkler system.
The structure is also located in a state Empire Zone and has the potential to qualify for historic tax credit programs.