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'Rainy Night' rehab project extends to building next door Fredonia company to move into city

What started as an effort to revitalize the downtown Buffalo building immortalized in Charles E. Burchfield's "Rainy Night" painting has grown into a larger rehabilitation project that will bring a new business to the city.

J. Roger Trettel, who bought the circa-1875 building at 36 Broadway in 2004 with plans to turn it into luxury apartments and retail, has extended the project to include the two-story building behind it at 285 Ellicott St. The environmental engineer plans to relocate his company, Northern Ecological Associates, from Fredonia to Buffalo when work is complete in the late spring.

"We have a number of employees who are commuting from Buffalo everyday and it has been difficult to recruit down there, so it makes a lot of sense to just move the business to the city," Trettel said.

Northern Ecological Associates has 15 employees including environmental engineers, scientists, planners and archeologists. The natural resources-based consulting firm, with a roster of national and international clients, specializes in environmental impact assessments, restoration ecology, wetlands studies, energy project development and archeological investigations.

"This will be a great location for the company. I think everyone will enjoy working in the heart of Buffalo and being part of the downtown renaissance," Trettel said.

He plans to retain ownership of the company's current home, a converted fire house in Fredonia's Barker Common Historic District.

The building at 285 Ellicott St., the long-time home of Stanford Display Studios, had recently been targeted for conversion to loft apartments, but the developers abandoned the project and Trettel stepped in to buy it.

Trettel began work on 36 Broadway in mid-2004, starting with exterior upgrades. Metal siding, which obscured the original brick on the lower floors of the four-story, Empire Period building, is long gone. New windows and a period appropriate color scheme have given the structure a major facelift.

The interior of the rooming house with small offices on the ground floor was gutted in 2005, with crews preserving such original features as hardwood floors, crown mouldings and wood trim.

But a number of "secrets in the walls" made for a slower than expected rehab of the 131-year-old building, according to Trettel. Original forecasts of a $500,000 project with a 2005 completion date, now have ballooned to a nearly $1 million effort that is expected to wrap up in late May.

Adding the adjacent building at 285 Ellicott St., which is now physically linked to 36 Broadway with a common entrance and elevator system, also added time and expense, but Trettel said he'll end up with a better finished product than he first envisioned.

"It will be a true mixed used complex with office, retail and residential space. I think it will be great asset to the neighborhood," he said.

Buffalo's Holcberg Ltd. Real Estate is the leasing agent for the remaining office and cafe/restaurant space on the ground floor, as well as the five apartments. The redone 36 Broadway features a 2,200-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment on its second floor, priced at $2,875 per month, and four two-bedroom units on the third and fourth floors, at $1,995.


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