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A former printing plant is expected to contain an enclave of artists and their studios.

Minneapolis-based Artspace has chosen the vacant Breitweiser Printing building at 1219 Main St., between Barker and Bryant streets, to house as many as 50 artists and their work spaces.

Chris Velasco, vice president of new projects for Artspace, said selection of the building sets the $12 million project in motion.

"With the acquisition of a site that meets the city's priorities, the last piece of the feasibility puzzle is in place," he said. "We have a positive market study, a strong financial plan and now a great site. It's all we need for a successful project in Buffalo."

This will be the first project in this state for Artspace, which has similar projects around the country.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, who invited Artspace executives to take a look at Buffalo for one of its innovative developments, said the Breitweiser building will be a great location for artists.

"I am thrilled with the site that Artspace selected for this project," he said. "This will add to all of our quality of life and expand the economic momentum in the city."

Artspace signed an purchase contract this week with Mark Pagano, the building's owner. The next step will be preparation of architectural and construction budgets to be submitted to the state early next year as part of an application for state Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

The city is chipping in $450,000 in money from a federal program called HOME to defray predevelopment costs.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who came to Buffalo earlier this year to signal her support for the art-fueled economic development effort, called selection of the building a "significant milestone."

"While Buffalo is already a major center for the arts, this is an important step in realizing the city's potential as one of the finest artistic and cultural destinations in the country," Clinton said.

At the senator's urging, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently gave preliminary approval to provide $250,000 to the arts development.

The funding still needs approval from the full Senate and the House of Representatives.

Representatives of Artspace, which has been developing state-of-the-art residential and work space for local artisans for 25 years, first visited Buffalo in May to survey the arts community, gauge local interest and scout potential sites. In a follow-up visit in August, they toured a dozen locations and narrowed potential locations to five sites.

Masiello said the five-story, 65,000-square-foot Breitweiser building not only offers the kind of size, character and adaptability the organization was seeking, but also is located on a section of Main Street that has attracted other reinvestment. He noted Delta Sonic's $2 million car wash project at 1226 Main St., as well as the freshly renovated Squier Mansion at 1313 Main, which now houses Literacy Volunteers of Buffalo & Erie County.

The site also is located midway between the developing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on the 800 block of Main Street and Canisius College on the 1900 block.

"People want to work and live near creative, energetic projects like this," the mayor said.

Built in 1915, the Breitweiser Building was the longtime home of the now-defunct local printing business. Over the years, the structure also has housed a variety of commercial enterprises, and a portion of it had been used unofficially as artist lofts.

It currently is empty.


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