Doat Street warehouse targeted for affordable apartment reuse - The Buffalo News

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Doat Street warehouse targeted for affordable apartment reuse

A warehouse storage building off Genesee Street is being targeted for redevelopment into a new apartment facility and neighborhood clinic in the latest effort by a developer to strengthen an East Side neighborhood.

Larry Regan's Regan Development Corp. of Ardsley, N.Y., wants to convert the 100,000-square-foot building at 19 Doat St. into 74 affordable-housing apartments, plus 5,700-square-feet of community space, geared toward low-income individuals and families.

Additional social services for tenants will be provided by the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of Western New York, Regan's primary nonprofit partner for the project.

Regan also would construct a separate 8,100-square-foot outpatient health clinic on the site, to be run by Jericho Road Community Health Center, which would relocate from an existing site nearby that provides more limited services.

The goal is to provide a combination of housing, health and other social services at a single location, aimed at the financially strapped, special needs and immigrant populations served by the nonprofit agencies. In turn, that will help to revitalize a community that hasn't benefited as much from the redevelopment activity in other parts of the city, even on the East Side.

"This neighborhood just hasn't seen it. It's a good opportunity for this neighborhood to take advantage of having us as a team to help stabilize it," Regan said. "Not a lot has been done here to really put it back in the forefront of some of these other areas that are seeing so much growth. We want to be the ones to bring it into the fold."

Constructed in 1916, the aging masonry and heavy wood timber complex, with a red-brick facade and rubble stone foundation, sits on 1.92 acres at the corner of Doat and Rustic Place. It stretches an entire block just north of Concordia Cemetery and just west of Bailey Avenue, in the Schiller Park neighborhood.

Plans by HHL Architects and Tredo Engineers for the $10 million project - dubbed Monarch Knitting Apartments after an original occupant - call for keeping "the vast majority" of the existing four-story factory storage building, a connected one-story warehouse and a stand-alone one-story boiler building, according to Regan's application to the Buffalo Planning Board.

According to the plans, workers overseen by Resitarits Construction Corp. will restore and replace existing windows in their current openings, make structural repairs, replace materials as needed, and finish other site improvements. Window openings that are currently bricked up and sealed in the upper levels will be reopened again. The property will have 43 parking spaces, plus landscaping.

The project would feature a mix of 26 one-bedroom apartments, 45 two-bedroom units and three larger three-bedroom apartments, aimed at residents whose incomes are at or below 60 percent of the area median. Some units will also be set aside for those with special needs but most will be for working families, Regan said.

Each of the four floors of the main building would have 17 to 18 units per floor, with another three two-story loft units with two bedrooms in each taking up the adjacent boiler building. The apartments will range in size from just under 700 square feet for the one-bedrooms to just under 1,180 square feet for the three-bedroom units. Rents will be set based on income.

The community space, located in an addition jutting out from the main building, would be used by Matt Urban to provide services, but will also include meeting rooms and other facilities for shared use by tenants. A playground is also planned in the backyard.

Meanwhile, the new stand-alone health clinic building will feature a mix of lighter brick on one end, red corrugated metal panels on the other, and a panoply of varying colored fiber cement panels to create a bright design in the middle. Specific details of that clinic's services were not available Thursday, but architect Matthew Meier of HHL said the new full-service clinic will be modeled after a similar initiative by Jericho Road next to the Broadway Market.

The Doat project represents Regan's third project in Buffalo since first coming to the market 14 years ago. Previous projects - which also involved HHL and Resitarits - include the Packard Apartments on Main Street, near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and the Niagara Gateway Apartments at 885 Niagara St.

"We've developed a nice niche in the community doing historic adaptive reuse in Buffalo," Regan said. "We're downstate guys, but we like to consider Buffalo our second home, because we enjoy the community. We like the city as an opportunity, and we enjoy being a part of the growth that's occurred in Buffalo."

With help from the city and nonprofits, they identified the Genesee-Moselle area as a neighborhood that hasn't seen much investment and development. But now, he said, they see the same opportunities there as they did downtown and on the West Side - even though "it's a bit further out than the others were."

In particular, he said, he was attracted by the work that Jericho Road does with immigrant and refugee populations, and the potential to use that to help the larger community.

The key, he said, is the role of Matt Urban and Jericho Road. "They're the heart and soul of the deal to serve the community," Regan said. "We're optimistic and hopeful that this will work."

The project will be funded by 4 percent low-income housing tax credits from the state Housing Finance Agency and a combination of federal and state historic tax credits, as well as a bank mortgage and equity from Regan.

However, the future of the federal credits is somewhat murky, as the proposed new tax reform legislation poised for congressional approval would eliminate them, creating a big hole in financing for many Buffalo-area projects.

"One hundred-year-old buildings need a little TLC to put them back together, before you even do your buildout, and then you need to do upgrades and code compliance, and it just all starts to add up," Meier said, explaining the importance of the historic credit. "This project would be a big lift if it did not have it."

Also, Matt Urban officials already obtained Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative funds from the state Office of Mental Health, and Regan said the team would apply for a low-interest loan or grant from the Better Buffalo Fund for the Jericho Road clinic.

The Planning Board will first review the proposal on Dec. 18 and take the lead on a city-wide environmental review, before holding a public hearing at the end of January.

The project also needs Common Council approval for a special adaptive-reuse permit for historic buildings because the project would feature apartments on the ground floor. That vote is currently expected on Jan. 2.

If the project receives all approvals and financing is secured, construction could begin by mid- to late 2018, Meier said, and will last about 18 to 24 months.

Meier said the building was originally built and occupied by Monarch Knitting Co., a Canadian mill operation that went out of business in 1967. It later housed a Royal Bedding Co. outlet that featured Restonic mattresses, and has been used as a warehouse because of its thick wood-plank floors and large beams that can support heavy weights.

"This building is in pretty good condition, considering that it's been pretty actively used," Meier said. The exception is a big boiler chimney that will be torn down because it is cracked down the middle from years of decay.

The property was slated to be auctioned in September 2009, but was instead transferred for $8,000 by Thomas Comer to Mohamud Khalil, owner of Big Moe's Tires on Walden Avenue, who still owns it and leases it to others for storage. Regan has the building under contract, pending municipal and financing approvals.

Meier said the team has already had brief conversations with neighbors, but plans to start holding more organized and formal discussions starting as soon as the end of this month.

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