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Larkinville's rebirth is just getting started

Fifteen years ago, when the first office tenants moved into a renovated Larkin Soap Co. warehouse on Exchange Street, few envisioned what Larkinville would become.

One of the city’s oldest commercial and industrial districts, it had decayed over decades, with hulking empty buildings and underused properties.

Today, Larkinville is a thriving commercial and entertainment area that is attracting a growing number of residents. Old warehouses and smaller buildings have been renovated, hosting scores of businesses and thousands of workers, while Larkin Square is a vibrant hub for food trucks, concerts and events. Breweries, distilleries and restaurants have opened, and retail stores could be next.

[Related: Larkinville is family venture for Zemskys]

But the transformation isn’t done. One of the neighborhood’s lead developers, Larkin Development Group, has acquired more than 40 parcels, commercial buildings and houses in the neighborhood. And while many projects have been finished, they’re drawing up plans for more as they seek to fulfill their vision of bringing the district back to life.

“Now that we’ve come this far, the number of choices or options in front of us has actually grown,” said Howard Zemsky, who leads Larkin Development along with his wife, Leslie, and other business partners.

Here's a look at some of the work that's been done and what could come in the future.

A view from above Larkin Square shows some of the development that has already taken place. (Derek Gee/ Buffalo News)

A neighborhood transformation

The rebirth of one of the city’s oldest industrial neighborhoods has brought new life to old buildings

1. 726 Exchange St.: Larkin at Exchange Building. This 10-story complex built in 1912 was the original former Larkin Soap Co. warehouse that Howard Zemsky and his team redeveloped. Today, it is anchored by KeyBank’s regional headquarters and administrative offices for Kaleida Health.

2. 239 Van Rensselaer St.: Larkin U Building. Three-story building was a Larkin factory for 29 years. The renovated 46,000-square-foot office building is occupied by KeyBank.

3. 716 Swan St.: Hydraulic Hearth Restaurant, Brewery and Beer Garden.

4. 701 Seneca St.: Larkin Center of Commerce. A former Larkin Soap Co. warehouse complex of 12 contiguous buildings that is now the Larkin Center of Commerce, with 1.3 million square feet on nearly 32 acres. Developed by Larkin Center Management, which is led by James Cornell and Gordon Reger, it’s the region’s largest mixed-use facility, with nearly 100 office, retail, manufacturing and warehouse tenants.

5. 740 Seneca St.: Schaefer Building. Redeveloped by Larkin Development, this 8,000-square-foot former grocery houses offices for Young + Wright Architecture, with two apartments on the third floor.

6. 755 Seneca St.: The four-story, all-brick Kamman Building, which dates from 1883, was renovated by CJS Architects into a new office and residential building.

7. 840 Seneca St.: (not pictured) Flying Bison Brewery occupied this 12,500-square-foot former distribution warehouse, formerly used by D&M Plywood.

8. 860 Seneca St.: (not pictured) Buffalo Distilling moved to this three-story former carriage manufacturing building dating from 1890, and owned by Larkin Development.

More still to come

Larkin Development Group has more projects in the planning stages or recently completed.

696 Seneca St.

  • What it is: Historic red-brick former Larkin Men's Club social hall, located behind fire station and extending between Swan and Seneca streets. Once part of the Larkin Soap Company empire.
  • What it will be: Mixed-use residential and commercial building, dubbed "City Clubhouse," to open by fall 2019.

Former Larkin social hall will be a residential and commercial building. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

700 Swan St.

  • What it was: Vacant land
  • What it is: Newly opened Swan Street Diner,  in a renovated 80-year-old diner car transported from Wayne County.

The Swan Street Diner opened earlier this month. (Derek Gee/ Buffalo News)

822 Seneca St.

  • What it is: Former Ameripride facility next to Flying Bison Brewery, now demolished, cleared to industrial standards and a large grassy greenspace lot.
  • What it will be: Neighborhood recreational amenities, such as tennis, basketball or volleyball courts and a running track, or for parkland and other features. To be completed by fall 2020.

A former industrial site at 822 Seneca St. is slated for recreational amenities. (Derek Gee/ Buffalo News)

829 Seneca St.

  • What it is: Long abandoned former neighborhood bowling alley building at corner of Seneca and Griffin streets.
  • What it will be: Larkin Lanes, a refurbished bowling alley and eatery modeled after the contemporary and "funky" Brooklyn Bowl, to open by fall 2020.

An abandoned bowling alley building at corner of Seneca and Griffin streets could see new life. (Derek Gee/ Buffalo News)

874 Seneca St.

  • What it is: Vacant land near Smith Street for infill development
  • What it will be: Future live-work houses of two to three floors, similar to two buildings across the street that were already renovated, with retail on the first floors and residential on second and third floors. To open by fall 2019.

Vacant land at 874 Seneca St. could have live-work houses. (Derek Gee/ Buffalo News)

111 Hydraulic St.

  • What it is: Gravel lot, cleaned to residential standards for future building site.
  • What it will be: Multi-floor building of over 100,000 square feet of retail, commercial and residential space, with retail on the first floor and as many as 80 apartments above. To be completed by fall 2021.

A gravel lot at 111 Hydraulic St. was cleaned to residential standards. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

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