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Apartments at 10 Lafayette enable residents to live in mid-century cool

When you walk through 10 Lafayette, you have moments that flash to “Mad Men.” The elegance of the early 1960s, like in the popular AMC series, is palpable. The aqua high-rise is sleek, unadorned and uniform in detail but contextually atypical. Most of Main Street’s historic office buildings are stunning for their throwback to a much earlier era, but the former Tishman, built in 1959, stands to remind us of the few historically significant buildings born in the middle of the last century.

The Hamister Group, which renamed the building 10 Lafayette Square, worked with architects Carmina Wood Morris, D.P.C., to design a reuse of the Tishman in a manner that both preserved and complemented its exterior. Chief architect Jonathan Morris explained that to maintain the historic quality of the building and thus the preservation status that warrants tax credits, the Tishman’s original exterior had to remain unchanged. The interior, though, could be styled any way the developers wanted.

“We decided to stick with the 1960s style shown on the outside of the building,” Morris said. “Toward that goal, we aimed at creating something refined and classic.”

And so they did. The key aesthetic of the residential floors is minimal, uncluttered and elegant.

Colors are artful blends of cool beiges, light grays, rich blacks. Ceilings are high, doors are thick and even the hefty door handles are simple yet rich.

Still, what Morris’ team did best was place interior walls around existing windows in a manner that captures stunning views of the city. There are 18 apartments, both one and two bedrooms, in 10 Lafayette that rent from $1,200 to $2,700 a month. Each floors from 15 to 17 has six unique units, and most have a commanding view of something wonderful. Look here, see the famous gold dome that sits atop M&T Center. Look there, see City Hall against a backdrop of the Niagara River. Over there, see the length of Main Street.

The Hilton Garden Inn opened last week, occupying the building’s first 14 floors. The hotel has 124 guest rooms, meeting and conference rooms, a restaurant, a lounge, a seasonal outdoor patio, a large fitness center, a pool and valet parking. Guests and residents have access to it all.

The hotel, though a chain, is markedly Buffalo. Morris said that Hilton has an architectural prototype for its Garden hotels, but local designers are encouraged to spin the prototype toward the city it occupies. So, he said, “where fireplaces may have shown on the prototype, we added a water element suggesting Niagara Falls.” Other Hilton Garden Inns may use floral motifs, but Morris’ team used leaf patterns, and the colors of an autumn park floor – mossy greens, rusty browns, deep oranges, and reds – in tribute to the Olmsted Parks system. And, as is the case on the residential floors, there are no long corridors in the new hotel. Instead, the hallways encircle an elevator shaft, and are wide, well-lit and minimally adorned. Nice.

The Hamister Group made several right moves in choosing to adapt the Tishman: putting a second hotel on Lafayette Square finished an important corner; installing its headquarters symbolized confidence in the project; and creating distinctive apartments appealing to hip yet classic tastes expanded style options in downtown housing.

The developers made yet another fine move in contracting Carmina Wood Morris, a firm that seemed to share their own vision of 10 Lafayette Square.

– Marilyn Cappellino