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Carmina-led investment group wins auction for historic downtown properties

A prominent local architect-turned-developer has teamed up with another downtown real estate investor to acquire and redevelop a group of 19th-century buildings in downtown Buffalo.

Steven J. Carmina, of Carmina Wood Morris P.C., joined with landlord Roger Trettel and other investors to outbid rival developer Rocco Termini for three adjacent properties at 163 and 167 Broadway and 60 Nash St., offering to pay $410,000 for buildings that also front on Michigan Avenue and date back as far as 1820.

Plans call for converting the 40,000-square-foot complex of buildings into about a dozen apartments, indoor parking, a restaurant and possibly some commercial space, although that hasn’t been finalized, Carmina said.

Restaurateur Kathleen Tyler, who is also one of the investment partners, wants to open a high-end jazz dinner club/restaurant in one of the buildings, Carmina said. He said the group is also interested in having a small micro-brewery or micro-distiller in the building, possibly using the carriage house building on Nash.

At the same time, Carmina hopes to capitalize on the building’s proximity to Michigan Avenue to tap into the African-American Heritage Corridor initiative. The historic Colored Musicians Club is a block away, while St. John Baptist Church is just a few blocks up the street. And the investors plan to donate 2,000 square feet to a nonprofit cultural organization that would fit with the historic initiative, to be designated by a committee named by city leaders.

Carmina termed the building a potential “beacon for people visiting the city to learn about African-American culture, the Underground Railroad, and why the street and city are important” to both.

“I think it’ll encourage other property owners to get off their butt and start developing that corridor,” he said. The city garage, which officials have talked about replacing, is also nearby.

The three buildings were constructed at different times, with at least six different phases from the 1820s to the 1880s. The main building at 163 Broadway, on the corner of Michigan, is three stories in height, while the next building, at 167 Broadway, is a two-story former car wash. Carmina said the upper two floors of 163 Broadway are designated for the apartments “with great exposure to city views,” while indoor parking would be provided in one of the other buildings that would be connected.

Carmina said the investors had been trying to buy the buildings for over 18 months, initially negotiating directly with the former owner, but that fell apart after the mortgage holder foreclosed. He said the developers would use historic tax credits to help finance the project, which will likely cost between $4 million and $5 million.

The group is talking with Eunice Lewin’s Impacto Consulting Associates about handling property management and leasing, and will hire R&P Oak Hill as construction manager, Carmina said. Construction is expected to start in the spring, beginning with stabilization efforts. “We just need some time to solidify our plans and pull our financing together,” he said.

Besides Carmina, Trettel and Tyler, other investors include Joe Picone, Dr. Frank and Ellen Mascaro, Dr. Joseph Serghany and his wife and Silva Banboukian.