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Plans for Delaware Ave. mansion aired; Buyer plans to use it for home, apartments

A businessman who bought a historic Delaware Avenue residence in Buffalo from Canisius High School will live in part of the mansion while converting the rest of the home and a carriage house to apartments.

James McHugh, owner of Personal Touch Food Service, also plans to build new townhouses and replace much of the site's expansive parking lot with landscaping.

He has received approval from the city's Planning and Preservation boards for the renovation work and could finish construction by early next year, according to project plans.

"Jim is going to take the historic portion of the Foster mansion," said Steven J. Carmina, a partner with Carmina Wood Morris Architecture and Engineering, which designed the project. "It will be a supersized apartment."

McHugh bought the property -- including the historic Foster mansion and two carriage houses totaling 19,794 square feet -- for $850,000 in June from the high school through an entity he named Foster Manor LLC.

Canisius had received the one-acre gated property at 891 Delaware, near Bryant Street, as a gift in 2006 but never could figure out how to incorporate it into the school's plans.

McHugh is not a developer, and the Foster mansion renovation is his first project of this kind, said Edward C. Cosgrove, McHugh's lawyer.

Cosgrove returned a message left for McHugh, who declined to speak to The Buffalo News for this report.

Plans filed with the city Planning Board show McHugh plans to spend $500,000.

McHugh and Carmina are dividing the project into several phases, starting with the conversion of the northern carriage house on the property into luxury apartments.

The three two-bedroom units in that carriage house will range in size from 1,800 to 2,000 square feet each. Cosgrove said he doesn't know how much the rent will be for those apartments, but it may be $1,000 to $1,500 per month.

"Really, the target is the baby boomer who's now coming back into the city," Carmina said.

Renovations could begin in November once a building permit is issued for the work.

Next, McHugh will renovate the early 1900s mansion into a 3,000-to-3,400-square-foot residence and four or five smaller apartments of 750 to 900 square feet each, marketed to single professionals.

The third phase of the project would see townhouse apartments built on the site, in a style reminiscent of those located half a mile south on Mayfair Lane, the architect said.

"Our plan is to create maybe four or five townhouses on the property," Carmina said. "We're respecting the adjacent residents."

McHugh still must get approval for his master site plan. Carmina said they plan to reduced the paved area on the property by about 75 percent.

The southern carriage house on the property will be converted to apartments or sold, Cosgrove said.