A suburban homebuilder and her husband are proposing to build on the site of a demolished three-story brick structure at the edge of Larkinville, taking advantage of the momentum in that part of the city after a pair of former warehouses next door were redeveloped into apartments.
Laura Sullivan, owner of Buffalo Bungalows, and Derek Sullivan, owner of foundation contractor Indycrete Inc., want to reconstruct the building at 474 Seneca St., which was demolished three years ago after it fell into disrepair and bricks began falling from the parapet.
Plans call for a 5,000-square-foot mixed-use building, with a coffee shop or other retail business on the first floor and a loft-style apartment on each of the second and third floors. The site is a vacant lot near Spring Street, across from Graphic Controls.
Each of the apartments will be about 1,200 square feet, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as outside balconies and private parking. The Sullivans are targeting a monthly rent of about $1,600 each, but that could change if they are required to shrink or increase the size of the building because of zoning regulations. The $750,000 project will come before the Zoning Board of Appeals for variances on March 23.
The couple wants to use recycled bricks and other finishes that “don’t look brand new,” so they can “make it look like it’s been here for 100 years,” Derek Sullivan said.
“We said, let’s recreate what they knocked down,” he said. “If we had the opportunity, we would have tried to fix what was there. It’s important for that street. We need to have some older-looking stuff down there.”
The property – actually two parcels cobbled together – is currently owned by Gerhardt Yaskow, a residential landlord and developer in Buffalo who used to own McCarthy’s Irish Pub and Coit House. He bought the site two years ago, after the former building was demolished, and then sought out someone to develop it.
The couple will buy the property for $43,000 and will lead the project, but Yaskow said he’s become good friends with them and hopes to stay involved.
“This is surely his wheelhouse, but I’ve already been helpful in making this happen,” Yaskow said. “Going forward, I think we’ll work on various projects together, as we get this off the ground.”
The Sullivans and Yaskow have already met with Fillmore District Common Councilmember David A. Franczyk, as well as with Samuel Savarino, who owns and redeveloped the nearby former F.N. Burt Co. warehouse at 500 Seneca into a successful mixed-use apartment and office complex. So far, they say, the reception has been positive. “We’re kind of a small fish in the commercial world,” Derek Sullivan said. “It was a little daunting, but every single person we’ve talked to has been unbelievably awesome.”
The Sullivans’ project represents the fourth such effort in that immediate vicinity, which is located between the downtown business district and the main part of Larkinville. That’s an area that has been garnering increased attention since the success of the Larkin at Exchange Building and other redevelopments nearby, as well as the creation of the Larkin Square entertainment area.
“With the advent of 500 Seneca next door and Larkinville, and this general rebirth of Buffalo that is going on, suddenly these vacant parcels are prime to build something. There’s a critical population there that needs to be served,” Yaskow said. “This may be part of the big move of millennials looking to come back to the city. That’s a good sign that everything the mayor has been talking about is coming to fruition. The marketplace is telling us that people really do want to be downtown.”