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Former School 56 in Buffalo could become apartments

A former public school near Chapin Parkway in Buffalo will become home to 33 new apartment dwellers and some nonprofits, if a developer’s plans get the go-ahead from city officials.

Ellicott Development Co. wants to convert the former School 56 at 722 W. Delevan Ave. into a mixture of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, occupying most of the three-story building as well as its basement.

The $5.7 million mixed-use project, designed by Silvestri Architects, also calls for about 5,000 square feet of “flex” commercial office space for use by nonprofit entities in the basement and on the first floor.

Designs submitted to the Buffalo Planning Board also include a 460-square addition in one corner of the building’s rear. There will also be 78 parking spaces, including three handicapped spots and seven for valet parking.

The 69,000-square-foot brick structure sits on about 1.5 acres, and has been vacant for many years. It was built in 1909, and was owned by the city until Ellicott won the right to acquire and redevelop it last year, after the city sought reuse proposals.

Ellicott officials are also working with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure the work “enhances the historic nature” of the facility, with minimal exterior work and retention of historic interior features, “to communicate the former use and rich character” of the building, Ellicott Director of Development Thomas M. Fox wrote in a letter to the Planning Board.

“The adaptive reuse of this vacant building will add to the continued momentum seen in this section of the city by adding a mix of new residential and commercial tenants to the neighborhood,” Fox wrote.

The school project is one of three separate ventures proposed by Ellicott, the development company owned by Carl and Bill Paladino, and up for review at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting.

The developer is also separately seeking to construct a 100,000-square-foot prefabricated metal warehouse building at 246 Dingens St., at the corner of James E. Casey Drive. The firm has owned the vacant 6.516-acre commercial site since 1993.

The proposed one-story “spec” building, with no tenants identified in the Planning Board documents, would feature three storefront entrances on the south side of the building facing Dingens, each with decorated architectural brick column on each side. The structure would also include six loading docks and 105 parking spaces.

Finally, Ellicott wants to replace an outdated 6,000-square-foot Rite Aid Pharmacy store at 789 Tonawanda St. in the Riverside neighborhood with a new one nearly twice its size that includes a drive-thru.

The 1.62-acre site, which Ellicott has owned since December 2010, currently has several vacant houses and parking lots in addition to the existing store at the corner of Ontario Street.

The $1.6 million project calls for demolition of the other structures and clearing of the site, followed by construction of the new 11,115-square-foot pharmacy, and then demolition of the older store, which would have operated throughout the process. The new store would include a 49-space parking lot, screened with fencing and landscaping.

Ellicott officials worked closely with neighborhood residents through “multiple meetings” to come up with “an attractive design for the building, which meets the needs of our tenant while incorporating the preferences that were voiced by residents,” Bill Paladino wrote in a letter to the Planning Board.

Plans show a predominantly brick building, with a decorative metal panel added to the main entry and large windows at the entrance, which were designed with neighbor input to recreate the appearance and design of the former Riverside Men’s Shop that was located at the intersection for decades before it moved to Amherst. More windows were also added to the west and south sides of the building to address concerns.

The project needs a zoning variance as well. If approved, work could begin as soon as September, to finish up a year later.