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Elk Terminal Lofts downtown may add 23 new units

Twelve years after launching the adaptive re-use movement in downtown Buffalo, First Amherst Development Group LLC wants to expand its Elk Terminal Lofts by more than a third, creating 23 new apartments in a side of the complex formerly used for company storage.

The developer plans to convert about 35,000 square feet of warehouse space into a mixture of mostly two-bedroom loft-style apartments – some with two bathrooms – and a few one-bedroom units, adding to the 72 residential units already in the two-building complex at 230 Scott St.

The units will range in size from 1,000 to 1,700 square feet. Rents range from $1,095 to $2,000 per month.

“We’ve just had incredible demand down there, really fueled by everything that’s happening in the area,” said Benjamin N. Obletz, president of First Amherst. “We’ve always had a strong project down there, but in the last two years, all the demand is fueled by the investment happening down there, all the new venues for restaurants and entertainment.”

Additionally, the expansion, designed by Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects, includes 4,000 square feet of completed office space, with a tenant already slated to move in next week, although Obletz would not identify the business yet.

Nine of the apartments will be on the first floors and 14 on the second floors of the two two-story buildings that make up the Elk Terminal complex, totaling 200,000 square feet in all. Meanwhile, the developer will convert the basement levels of the two buildings into storage space for the company’s own use, relocating that from the old warehouse area that will become apartments.

First Amherst received approval for the project from the Buffalo Planning Board on Monday night. Obletz said he hopes to start work in mid-February and be finished by July 1, using Peyton Barlow Co. as the contractor. Obletz said he did not yet have a projected cost for the new project.

Located directly behind Ellicott Development Co.’s Fairmont Creamery Building at 199 Scott and in the shadow of the I-190, the Elk Terminal complex was originally constructed as a food warehouse in 1919, and served as a hub for the Elk Street Food Market. It was purchased and redeveloped by First Amherst more than 15 years ago as the first loft conversion in the city’s Cobblestone District.

At the time, it was virtually an island unto itself, with little development activity around it and no other major residential or entertainment facilities nearby, despite close proximity to downtown Buffalo and First Niagara Center. But that has changed in the last 10 years, with the new Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, the growth of Canalside and waterfront concerts, the rise of HarborCenter, and a host of other new apartment buildings, restaurants and entertainment venues within walking distance.

“It is just becoming such an entertainment district in that area that is driving demand,” Obletz said. “It is becoming an area where people are starting to flock to, because of everything in close proximity. They can walk to the concerts. They can walk to Canalside. They can walk around the harbor there.”

Current and prospective tenants represent a mix of mostly young professionals who work downtown, as well as some empty-nesters and even families.

Obletz noted that some of the units are quite large, “so it is very appealing to certain people,” and each unit has its own private entrance with outside parking in front. The complex typically has one or two apartments available for rent in any month, and a handful of people looking for specific unit types, and the developer will start marketing the new units as well.

“We had very good success with it, and felt the time was right for another 25 units down there,” Obletz said.