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More apartments, commercial space planned for downtown Main Street

Two new proposals would bring more revamped apartments, shops and commercial space to the 400 and 500 blocks of Main Street in Buffalo.

Property owner and developer J. Roger Trettel wants to combine three adjacent buildings in the 500 block of Main Street into a single facility with four first-floor commercial or storefront spaces and eight live-work apartments on the upper three floors.

Just down the street, Ellicott Development Co. and McGuire Development Co. plan to renovate the outside of the longtime former Baker Shoe Department Store building, including its marquee sign, at 456 Main St.

Both proposals will go before the Buffalo Planning Board next week for consideration.

Trettel already owned 523 Main and completed a facade restoration and a full renovation of its interior in 2011. He later purchased the properties at 515-517 and 521 Main and is now taking aim at putting the three century-old buildings together in a $3 million project.

"It will be a fun arts-and-entertainment-themed mixed-use project that will be a great addition to the 500 block," Trettel said.

Crews are ready to start the exterior restoration and facade repairs, which will "incorporate the existing architectural elements," architect Tommaso Briatico wrote in a letter to the Board.

The building at 523 Main briefly housed Perk's Cafe and Market and the Main Washington Exchange, but now has Jerk's Soda Fountain & Ice Cream, which Trettel said will remain.

The refreshed buildings will feature a new brick veneer facade, new black aluminum storefront windows and doors, new signage, upstairs balconies with wrought-iron railings, and a new painted cornice topping the central portion of the structure. The market-rate apartments will range from 800 to 2,000 square feet.

"These buildings have been part of our fabric," Briatico wrote. "We should try to obtain new uses and long-term building improvements to sustain their usage for our community."

Additional plans call for a small rear addition for a new elevator, an exit staircase along the east portion and a new sprinkler system. That work will begin in the spring, but Trettel said a key tenant wants to be ready to take occupancy by mid-summer.

Funding will come from Trettel, plus bank loans and a construction bridge loan from the Buffalo Building Reuse Program. He also obtained a small facade repair grant from the New York Main Street program to fix masonry on the back wall of the building. He also said he may explore historic tax credits since the building is part of a historic district.

Trettel said he has a "totally unique to Buffalo" restaurant and bar tenant for two floors of 521 Main and is in talks with another commercial tenant for one of the upper floors of the complex. He's also talking to a "progressive media/retail company" for a first-floor storefront at 517, while a "revamped" Ujima Theater Co. office and Main Street Gallery will reopen at 515 Main, with a food and beverage kiosk.

Meanwhile, the proposal by Ellicott Development Co. and McGuire Development Co. to renovate the vacant Baker Shoe Department building at 456 Main St. is expected to cost $450,000.

The work will include a new brick veneer base, a rooftop cornice, aluminum panels and new windows and doors, as well as a refurbished storefront canopy and a freshly painted and cleaned concrete facade. Ellicott received a $40,000 New York Main Street grant to support the project.

The building, on the west side of Main, has been vacant for several decades, but the developer said it is "working with several prospective tenants" to occupy it. The developers already converted the connected seven-story rear building, at 265-267 Pearl St., into 19 apartments, now redubbed The Antonio.


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