A proposed conversion of a historic West Side firehouse into a new brewery and restaurant will have to wait for at least two more weeks, after Buffalo Planning Board members balked Monday at making a recommendation to the Common Council before a final community meeting this week.
A group of six young investors known as Project X Holdings wants to renovate the old Jersey Street Firehouse at 310 Jersey, at Plymouth Avenue, into a tavern and "industrial artisan microbrewery."
Plans for the $1.6 million project include facade alterations, an outdoor patio in front, a one-story addition in the rear for the kitchen, and a studio apartment. The brewery would be on the west or southwest side of the building, while the restaurant would be located "where the fire trucks used to park," said architect Anne Dafchik of Clark Patterson Lee. In all, the building could handle about 100 people, including staff.
The investors also want to replace the old fire doors with pivot overhead doors that can open up to the outdoor patio in warmer weather, Dafchik said. Planters would set the patio apart from the sidewalk. There's also a possibility of a second-floor patio in the future, above a utility space. There are no plans for live music.
"Our hope is that this could be a public amenity," Dafchik said. "The building has been vacant for 20 years."
The investment group says they've already been meeting with the neighborhood, but a final meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, at 453 Porter Ave. Given that, "it's just premature," Cynthia Schwartz, Planning Board vice chairwoman, said. "There's too many questions around the project."
An aide to Common Council Member David Rivera also asked the board to table the project, noting that it can't get approval until March anyway because of other pending reviews.
Board member Martha Lamparelli agreed.
"It's the cart before the horse," she said. "While we'd love to see the reuse of the firehouse, we want to get the input of the community. Many of these neighbors have lived there a lifetime."
Adam Pratt, a member of the Project X group, said the team is "happy to bring this building that has been dilapidated for 20 years back to life," but understands the community desire to be heard.
"I live four blocks away," he said. "We look at this as really being a staple of that community."
He said the idea for the project originated about five years ago when he and another friend were vacationing in Burlington, Vt., and "we were really impressed with the beer community."
"They all work with each other to create a destination and a benefit for the local community," Pratt said. "We thought it would be great to bring that back to Buffalo, to help create a rich and vibrant culture."
He said the brewery would produce a range of beers with a 10-barrel system, capable of generating enough for consumption onsite but not for distribution. He would not disclose the name of the brewery yet. The group plans to hire a brewer.