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Forty market-rate town house condominiums soon could serve as a modern gateway into downtown from the north and east, the Buffalo Place Inc. board of directors learned Wednesday.

A partnership which would include the City of Buffalo, Amherst-based developer Mort Wittlin and the non-profit housing-oriented organization Revival Downtown hope to move forward with the roughly $7 million project in Main Street's 700 block at the north end of the Theater District.

Negotiations are under way with the current owners -- the Schmidt family of Schmidt's Auto Body & Glass Inc. fame, and Shifrin Enterprises of Beachwood, Ohio, owner of the Vernor building -- to acquire their properties.

"The project would involve the demolition of the old Schmidt and Vernor buildings in the 700 block of Main, near the old Teck Theater site," Ms. Schwartz told Buffalo Place directors at their monthly meeting. "We see it as a gateway into downtown," according to Ms. Schwartz, for motorists coming off the Kensington Expressway down on Goodell Street, or headed south on Main Street.

Ms. Schwartz said the town house units would have a look and ambience associated with Boston's Back Bay area -- high quality units.

"We're hoping to offer units in the $110,000 to $120,000 price range, with the town houses to feature two bedrooms targeted at young professionals and empty nesters," Ms. Schwartz said. An interior courtyard also would be part of the project.

Buffalo Place Inc. Executive Director Michael T. Schmand said his agency supports the project.

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