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Dilapidated Cooperage building near Ohio Street may get new life

The recent improvements on Ohio Street happened without any action involving a dilapidated complex on the corner of Chicago Street.

That's about to change.

Ellicott Development, which owns several properties in and around the former E.&B. Holmes Machine Company building, has reached an agreement to buy the brick structure and put in apartments, along with some retail. The sale is expected to be completed in June, according to company CEO William Paladino. Plans for the renovation will be presented to the Buffalo Preservation Board and to the Planning Board in June and July.

[Photo Gallery: The Buffalo Left Behind: E.&B. Holmes Machinery Co.]

"There are a lot of good things down there, and rehabilitating this building will add to the history of the area, and to the general feeling of recreating a neighborhood there," Paladino said.

"As we do new things, we're hopeful others will come up with ideas of things they want to do down there, whether entertainment or residential, to hopefully keep the area sustainable."

About 25 residential units will be built, Paladino said. The commercial space will be in the first floor of a new building and in the southern end of the old structure, which includes the former pattern building.

If all goes well, Paladino said, the company hopes to be able to open in spring 2018.

This is not the first time plans were made to rescue the building, which also is known as the Cooperage. Architect and longtime preservationist Clinton Brown, through Newark Niagara, announced his purchase of the rectangular-shaped property in 2008. He hoped to preserve the site while investing $6 million to create market-rate residences and a few retail spaces.

The Preservation League of New York State provided a $200,000 bridge loan to support stabilization and pre-development work under its Endangered Properties Intervention Program. But Brown's efforts were unsuccessful, and the building, which has been vacant since 2001 and further deteriorated from exposure to the elements, was tied up in City Court with a number of code violations.

Ellicott Development, in buying the lien from the Preservation League, committed to saving as much of the better-conditioned southern end of the building as it could, Paladino said. The oldest portion of the complex, the circa-1870s Mill Building, suffered a partial collapse in 2007.

Brown said Ellicott Development should be able to succeed where he could not.

"It took too much money to put it in rehabilitative condition. It's been a tortuous path, but I am confident it will have a happy ending," he said.

Since Brown purchased the property, the formerly industrial 1.4-mile Ohio Street was given an $11 million makeover. Ellicott Development and Savarino Companies erected apartment buildings along the river. Buffalo River Fest Park and the next-door Tewksbury Lodge restaurant opened.

Buffalo Riverworks, which hosts a wide array of sports and entertainment events, opened across the river on Ganson Street. Nearby Silo City started hosting popular summer events, and the Outer Harbor became a destination.

Ellicott Development has plans to develop several more parcels in the immediate area, one or more possibly in conjunction with the Holmes project.


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