A $68 million plan to convert the staid Dulski federal office building at 200 Delaware Ave. into an upscale hotel/office/condominium tower won unanimous approval Tuesday from the Buffalo Planning Board.
Uniland Development Co. of Amherst, in partnership with Buffalo's Acquest Development, gained approval for the ambitious makeover after making modifications in response to exterior design concerns raised by the planning panel earlier this month.
A so-called "diving board" element -- a top floor overhang planned for the Delaware Avenue side of the building -- has been redrawn as a functional penthouse balcony. The "Uniquest" partnership also added a 15-foot-wide bank of windows to the elevator tower on the West Huron Street side of the structure.
The development team is 50 percent done with an extensive asbestos abatement effort inside the 15-story building. The exterior transformation of the tower, which is bounded by Delaware, South Elmwood Avenue, West Huron Street and Cary Street, will begin before the end of year as the original concrete facade is taken down.
Uniquest announced last month that a 150-room Embassy Suites hotel will occupy the lower seven floors of the tower. It will also house five floors of Class A office space and three floors of upscale condominiums.
The building is expected to be ready for occupancy in early 2009.
The planning board also OK'd plans to turn the Elmwood Taco & Subs restaurant at the corner of Elmwood and West Delavan avenues into an Evans National Bank branch.
Evans President and CEO David Nasca said the unusual retrofit will result in an "innovative, community-centric" banking center.
"It's not going to look like a typical branch bank. It will be more like a boutique financial services office that will be integrated into the neighborhood," Nasca said.
The branch will open next spring.
Elmwood Taco & Subs -- known as ETS -- will move down the street to a former Burger King restaurant site by early January. Owner Ron Lucchino plans to unify the cluster of parking lots at the rear of the building to expand parking and give Evans Bank enough space to install a drive-up ATM machine.
In addition to ETS and the bank, the Lucchino-owned urban commercial strip in the 900-block of Elmwood Avenue also includes a Starbucks Coffee and Homeward Bound home decor shop. A separately owned restaurant building at 929 Elmwood Ave. is now home to Bel Cibo, an Italian eatery which debuted this month.