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Buffalo Planning Board approves apartment project at 810 Main St.

With approvals now in hand from the city’s Planning and Zoning boards, Frank Chinnici’s Legacy Development is hoping to start work this summer on the conversion of a small commercial building on Main Street and a pair of industrial buildings in the rear into an 18-unit apartment complex to serve doctors from the nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The Buffalo Planning Board on Monday gave the green light to Chinnici’s $4.8 million renovation and new construction project at 810 Main St., near Edward Street, where the developer owns property stretching back to St. Louis Place.

Plans call first for a historic renovation of the building facing Main Street, a four-story wood-frame structure that currently houses the offices of Artvoice on the first floor, with vacant apartment spaces on the three upper floors. The building is located in the Allentown Historic District, and that portion of the project will use historic tax credits.

In the rear, a 60-year-old concrete-block building will be torn down, with its foundation retained to support a new four-story wood-frame building. That structure will have 15 apartments on the upper three floors, with a lobby and 18 indoor parking spaces on the first floor.

The project already received a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals because its 42-foot height exceeds the 40-foot limit in the code.

The developer hopes to finish the project by August 2017. “The new building is a vast improvement over what’s been sitting there for decades,” said Planning Board member Cynthia Schwartz.

Separately, board members backed amendments to Ellicott Development Co.’s previously approved site plan for 960 Busti Ave., a 56,000-square-foot former warehouse that was originally constructed in 1922 for Buffalo General Electric Co. The four-story building, which was last used in 1995, sat vacant for 20 years but Ellicott is converting it into a mix of apartments and commercial space.

Plans call for 18 one-, two- and three-bedroom units on the third and fourth floors, with 12,000 to 13,000 square feet of commercial space on each of the first two floors. Ellicott Director of Development Tom Fox said the upper two floors are nearly done, with the model unit and six others completed. Pre-leasing started last week, with the first units to be ready for occupancy April 15 and the rest by May 15.

Since the original approval, however, Ellicott has taken out the planned handicapped ramp in the front of the building, substituting a lift instead, and now wants to put concrete planters and benches in front of the building, to prevent cars from pulling up alongside the building on the wide sidewalk. It’s also now planning to put 28 parking spaces in the basement, with a ramp on the south side of the building for cars to drive down to access the indoor parking.

In other action, the board:

• Gave final approval for Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.’s $14 million conversion of the 67,000-square-foot former Mentholatum Co. headquarters and later Garrett Leather warehouse at 1360 Niagara St. into a mixed-use project, with 51 apartments, underground indoor parking for 30 spaces and 3,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

• Approved construction by landscape architect Timothy Sick of a new two-family house on a narrow lot at 728 Linwood Ave., at West Delavan Avenue, after rejecting strenuous arguments against the project by the neighbor to the south, who complained that the site is too small for the proposed property, creates a danger at the intersection, and indirectly imposes a burden on her. The project had originally been a much smaller, handicapped-accessible single-family home for Sick himself, but was increased significantly in scale because the Preservation Board felt it wouldn’t match the scale and character of other homes in that neighborhood.

• Approved a parking lot for a new restaurant at 1672 Elmwood Ave. – formerly Papa Jake’s – with a 6-foot board-on-board fence separating the lot from a residential neighbor to the north.

The Planning Board also recommended approval by the Common Council for:

• An outdoor cafe at 186 Allen St., in the Allen Special District.

• Reuse of an existing restaurant with an outdoor cafe in the Hertel Special District, where Marco’s Italian Deli is moving from 1744 Hertel Ave. and taking over an old Subway restaurant location at 1518 Hertel.

• Conversion of the old Hertel Lounge at 1669 Hertel into the new Hertel Liquors, with a tasting room and a focus on local beers.