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Buffalo Planning Board considers Ciminelli’s plans for downtown apartments

City planners on Tuesday will get their first formal look at Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.’s plans to convert the former University at Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center building into apartments and commercial space, even as the developer is still deciding on a name for its new project.

Ciminelli, which acquired the six-story building at 465 Washington St. late last year for $2.34 million, wants to put about 50 loft-style, luxury or market-rate apartments into the 86,000-square-foot building, which sits at the corner of East Mohawk Street in downtown Buffalo.

The building will also house some commercial space on the first floor, although details are still being worked out, including a new name for the building, said spokeswoman Anne Duggan. In all, the project should cost about $13 million to $15 million, including the purchase price, and will likely entail historic tax credits.

Tuesday’s meeting of the Planning Board will start the coordinated 30-day review of the project, including the environmental assessment under state law. Company officials will seek final approval for the site plan in March, Duggan said..

If approved, Ciminelli hopes to start construction soon afterwards, and begin moving in tenants by the end of the year.

The century-old downtown site was originally home to Sinclair, Rooney & Co., a “milliner” or women’s hat-maker that operated there starting in 1909 through the 1960s. It was later home to an operations center for Remington Rand, a typewriter manufacturer, but more recently served as the base for UB’s EOC, which serves about 1,900 low-income students annually with vocational training and exam-preparation courses.

The EOC, which had been there for 40 years, relocated in June 2013 to a new $26 million, 68,000-square-foot facility at 555 Ellicott St. So UB put the old building up for sale, through its University at Buffalo Foundation.

The conversion is the latest example of adaptive re-use of a historic commercial or industrial building in downtown Buffalo, mostly into new residential space geared toward the influx of younger workers and older empty-nesters who want to enjoy upscale living in the urban core. The project seeks to capitalize on the newfound buzz around Buffalo’s social, cultural and economic revival, and its proximity to both downtown office buildings as well as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The project is one of several that Ciminelli is undertaking in that area, even as it continues work on its $110 million, seven-story Conventus Building at 1001 Main St., on the edge of the medical campus. That 335,000-square-foot facility, expected to be completed later this year, will house clinical, educational and research functions, with direct links to the University at Buffalo School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, now under construction.

Ciminelli last year also agreed to buy the home of Every Person Influences Children, or EPIC, for $2.1 million, but the deal hasn’t closed yet. That 13,000-square-foot, single-story building, located at 1000 Main St., faces Conventus across the street, but will continue to house EPIC for at least seven years, and Duggan said the firm does not have any immediate plans for it at this time.

Additionally, though, Ciminelli continues to negotiate with the Salvation Army for its building next door, but has yet to come to an agreement. Ciminelli had offered to buy the facility, but the nonprofit wants to have a firm plan for where it will go in the future. Salvation Army officials could not be reached for comment late Monday afternoon.

“From what we understand they took a step back to re-evaluate their needs, but we’re ready to meet with them again when that process is completed,” Duggan said.