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Two neglected buildings in the 400 block of Main Street downtown, which have stood empty for a decade, are seeing signs of new life.

Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino this week started interior demolition of the Baker Shoes building at 456 Main St., and will proceed next door to gut the remaining interiors of the Courtyard Mall at 460-470 Main. Paladino is planning a mixed-use project that will bring high-end apartments, offices and retail to the prime Main Street site.

"We've been talking about this for a while, and now we're ready to move on it," Paladino said. "We wanted to make sure we've got the right mix and it's the right time."

Paladino, who is partnering with Buffalo businessman Frank J. McGuire on the project, plans to convert the 73,000-square-foot Courtyard Mall from all retail to primarily office use, with a first-floor retail component. The building's basement would be converted into an enclosed parking garage, accessible from Pearl Street.

Plans for the Courtyard Mall site will be filed this spring, with hopes that its first office tenant will move in later this year.

Next door at the Baker Shoes site, plans call for the one-story section of the structure that fronts Main Street to become commercial space. The eight-story tower that rises behind it will be converted into luxury apartments.

Paladino said his very positive experience turning the former L.L. Berger Co. department store into the 30-unit Belesario apartment complex has convinced him that the building has strong potential as residential space.

"Twenty-four of the 30 units at Belesario are filled, and we know the demand is there to do a dozen really great apartments at Baker," Paladino said.

Work will be concentrated on the Courtyard Mall building in 2005, with the housing project to start next year.


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