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Design plans for Trico facility call for traffic roundabout, courtyard

The former Trico Products Corp. manufacturing facility is going to have a giant hole carved into the middle of it for a traffic roundabout and a courtyard, so cars entering the future hotel and apartment complex from Ellicott Street can drop off passengers inside the building’s walls.

That innovative design is a key idea behind the plans unveiled Tuesday morning by Krog Corp., the Orchard Park developer redeveloping the enormous former windshield wiper factory on the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

It addresses the need to bring natural light to the interior, so hotel rooms and apartments can have necessary windows, and provides a unique look and gateway, while reducing traffic and parking concerns on streets.

The concept envisions apartment residents and hotel guests driving through a gap in the wall, to be created when the developer demolishes part of the Ellicott side of the building, known as the “ice house.” That’s an area that wasn’t part of the original Trico but was used by a local brewery to store beer. It’s now crumbling.

Drivers will then choose either to drive up one ramp into an outdoor plaza and roundabout for the hotel and apartment lobbies, or take a second ramp down into the basement for parking. The roundabout will also lead them out of the building onto Ellicott.

Buffalo Planning Board member Martha Lamparelli called it “very clever,” while Chairman James K. Morrell said the “board is very excited” about the entire proposal. No action was taken, however, as officials are awaiting the completion of mandatory environmental reviews, expected to be completed over the next month.

Krog, which is buying the building from a city agency for $35,000, wants to convert the 600,000-square-foot complex at 817 Washington St. into a new mixed-use project geared to serve the growing medical campus community. The proposed $50 million reuse includes an extended-stay hotel, apartments, and commercial and retail space. The building is bordered by Goodell, Washington and Ellicott streets, and Ulrich’s Tavern to the north.

The building is considered a national historic landmark, both for its auto industry history and its architectural history as one of the oldest “daylight” factories, so Krog and the architects have worked closely with both the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service to comply with their restoration requirements – even meeting with federal officials in person in Washington.

“Everybody knows the storied history of this building,” said Kevin D. Murrett, president of Architectural Resources, which worked with C&S Engineers on the project designs. “This project has gone through exhaustive community vetting.”

The 138-room, 120,000- square-foot hotel, aimed at patients and families coming to Buffalo for medical care, would be run by the firm’s partner in the project, Buffalo-based Hart Hotels. It would be nationally flagged, but Krog President Paul Neureuter would not identify the brand yet.

Additionally, the building would feature between 130 and 150 market-rate apartments, ranging in size from 1,000 square feet to 1,600 square feet, and targeted toward medical campus employees or students at University at Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, which is currently under construction on the campus. The precise mix is still being determined, but would include studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and “a smattering” of three-bedroom units.

And it would have about 60,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The building would also have 200 to 250 basement parking spaces. In all, the final complex would be 490,000 square feet.

The project was unanimously approved by the Buffalo Preservation Board last week, and the purchase from an affiliate of the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. is pending. If approved, construction probably won’t begin until late fourth quarter of this year, and would finish by late 2017, unless Krog phases in portions of the project sooner, Neureuter said.

The board also:

• Approved construction of a three-story mixed-use building, with 11 apartments, bike storage and 2,659 square-feet of ground-floor retail space at 363 Grant St., on the West Side. The site, now a vacant lot, is the former home of the Ellen Terry Theatre. Plans call for a yellow-brick masonry facade on the Grant and Potomac street sides, bay windows and new landscaping. The project by Chris Siano and HES Properties I LLC, designed by John Wingfelder Architects, already received a $440,000 loan from the state through the $30 million Better Buffalo Fund.

• Tabled a proposed new 8,200-square-foot Family Dollar store at 909 Jefferson Avenue, at High Street, after neighbors spoke up and asked for more time to gather community input and meet with the developer, Durban Group of Pittsburgh and Charlotte.

• Approved the construction by Rigidized Metals of a one-story, dark bronze prefabricated steel addition on the rear of its 56,000-square-foot metalworking plant at 658 Ohio St. The company needs the space for an additional production line.

• Recommended approval by the Common Council of a new 24-foot-by-12-foot LED display sign with two panels on the corner of The Buffalo News building at Washington and Scott streets.