The owner of a Buffalo-based sales and distribution company with a broad array of consumer and commercial products is diversifying into a new business line: real estate development.
Uzochukwu E. Ihenko, who started Uzo 1 International Ltd. in 1990, wants to redevelop an old industrial complex on the city's East Side into a new mixed-use project with residential, retail and commercial space.
He wants to create 40 one- and two-bedroom apartments for affordable "workforce housing," along with retail and office uses, parking, outdoor space improvements, sidewalks and lighting.
The plan has yet to move through other municipal approvals. But last week, Ihenko - through Broadway Development & Management Group - purchased the property from Cilyox Inc. for $150,000, signaling his plans are now advancing.
Ihenko could not be reached for comment. Cilyox, which does business as New Rosen Printing, is owned by Michael Cimato.
Located on a stretch of Broadway between downtown and Jefferson Avenue, the 37,906-square-foot brick building with both two-story and three-story portions sits on a corner parcel at 343-345 Broadway. It's been in use in the past, including by New Rosen Printing and Ace Printing Co., but the upper and side windows of the 1900-era building are boarded up.
The $8.7 million project was already approved last year for a $750,000 low-interest loan from the Buffalo Building Reuse Fund, administered by the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. to support adaptive reuse and new construction projects with gap financing. BUDC noted that the redevelopment project is close to public transit and would strengthen links between the East Side, the Michigan Avenue Heritage Corridor and downtown Buffalo.
This is the latest in a series of new projects planned for the East Side, particularly along Jefferson Avenue and Broadway, where several developers are now investing millions of dollars to renovate older buildings or construct new mixed-use facilities that could bring dozens of new residents and several storefronts to long-neglected areas.
The project also will be a new venture for Ihenko, whose primary sales company is based in the Larkin Center of Commerce at 701 Seneca St. Uzo 1 International sells more than 500 different products and services to consumer, commercial, professional, institutional and industrial markets.
Those include electronics and computers, jewelry, health and beauty products, home appliances and decor, cleaning products, furniture, lamps and lighting, storage containers, ground maintenance, ink and toner, office supplies, packaging, laboratory chemicals and supplies, pet supplies, games and sports apparel, among others.