Transforming an old warehouse that once housed a well-known antique shop into a multi-use complex that includes upscale loft apartments, a restaurant and small food manufacturers was a challenging mission.
But the developer of Horsefeathers Market & Residences says the project on Connecticut Street on the West Side has been a success. Karl Frizlen, president of the Frizlen Group Architects, said the complex has been attracting customers and tenants from outside the city.
Frizlen talked with The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer about how finding new uses for old buildings is important to the revitalization of neighborhoods. Here is a summary of issues covered in an interview that is part of the weekly “In Focus” series. Watch the full interview above.
Meyer: Talk about some of the challenges that you faced in redeveloping this huge structure.
Frizlen: The biggest challenge I would say was probably financing. There are not too many lenders who would tackle a project like this. It’s mostly due to the location and due to the nature of this project. It’s a mixed-use. They’re much more difficult to finance.
Meyer: There was a couple years of delay partially because of that.
Frizlen: That’s correct.
Meyer: What can be done to make it easier to finance these kinds of ambitious projects?
Frizlen: Foster a better understanding of what the nature of this project is – what it’s really doing to the neighborhood ...
Meyer: Let’s talk about what one West Side activist said. She suggested that there is a renaissance going on here in the Connecticut Street area. Is that an overstatement, or is that an accurate depiction?
Frizlen: There’s definitely more interest by people purchasing properties here on Connecticut and on the West Side in general. It’s a good time to be here. We were in here in rather early stage, and ... We see it now coming along a lot better than two or three years ago.
Meyer: What’s causing it?
Frizlen: Here on Connecticut, there are two really major pieces in place. That’s D’Youville College on one end. You know, one bookend. And the other bookend is the Elmwood Village. We’re kind of in-between. We’re trying to link these two neighborhoods. That’s attracted us here to Connecticut ... [Building thriving neighborhoods] is tremendously important. Only strong neighborhoods create the strength of the city. If one neighborhood is kind of weak and the other one is strong, we have to find the balance. We have to develop not only here on the West Side, but ultimately also we have to tackle the East Side, which is still lagging behind a little bit.
Meyer: How successful are you at bringing people from outside of the neighborhood and even outside of the city to Horsefeathers?
Frizlen: I would say at this point about 60 percent of our tenants in the building are from outside the city. And many are from outside the state. We’re attracting a lot of people. They work at the medical campus. ...We’re attracting a lot of those people.It’s important to also bring outsiders, so to speak, to the West Side and demonstrate that it’s really a livable neighborhood and that it’s an emerging neighborhood, and that ultimately something really good is going to happen here.