The first artists/tenants of Buffalo's ArtSpace complex began moving into their new digs Friday.
Seven of 60 planned lofts were cleared for occupancy Friday morning, according to Richard Tobe, Buffalo's commissioner of economic development, inspections and permit services, who toured the project at 1219 Main St., along with housing and fire inspectors.
"We've issued a conditional certificate of completion, which would allow the first group of tenants to move in immediately," Tobe said. "We expect to clear another 15 as early as Monday."
The $16.9 million project, which will include 36 lofts for artists to live and work plus on-site gallery space when complete, is giving new life to the former Buffalo Electric Vehicle Co. automobile plant. Another 24 lofts will be housed in six new structures behind the industrial building, built in 1914.
"Traditionally, we would issue one certificate of occupancy for the entire building, but it's not uncommon to approve conditional certificates when it's appropriate," Tobe said.
Savarino Cos., the project's developer, was given a "punch list" of final work required earlier this week, according to Sam Savarino, the company's president.
"We knew we'd have to really push it to be ready by [Friday]," Savarino said. "But we're very motivated and excited about getting people in."
If the current timetable holds, Savarino expects all 36 units could be occupied by early next month. The two dozen new-build residences are on track for a late-August completion. First-floor gallery and common areas should also wrap up in the next five weeks.
Tobe gave the nearly finished project high marks.
"It's spectacular. The space is first-rate. It's very encouraging to see this innovative reuse," the commissioner said.
Conversion of the Buffalo Electric Vehicle building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has resulted in a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom lofts, which will be available to artists who meet strict income limits.
Priced at between $450 and $895 per month, 24 of the ArtSpace apartments will be available to tenants whose annual income is less than $36,720. Another 23 are designated to individuals earning under $24,480 a year. Remaining groups of seven and six lofts are restricted to those who make less than $20,400, and $12,240, respectively. There are also income guidelines based on the number of people per household.
The project is being developed through a partnership with Minneapolis-based ArtSpace Projects Inc., a nonprofit firm that is involved in 29 similar efforts around the country.
A mix of federal, state, city, foundation and private funding is making the project possible.