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Buffalo begins the new year with a pair of important new projects in the works

As once-moribund areas in the City of Buffalo continue to flourish, developers are rushing to meet new demand.

Two separate pieces of business news – one involving loft-style apartments and the other a multitenant warehouse project at RiverBend – made for a nice end-of-year snapshot of the area’s new business sense.

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. It is gratifying to see the project’s success, given that the late Bernie Obletz, who formed First Amherst, launched the adaptive reuse movement in downtown Buffalo 12 years ago.

The company converted what was originally a food warehouse built in 1919, and for years a hub for the Elk Street Food Market, into the first loft conversion in the city’s Cobblestone District. Now the rehabbed terminal, directly behind Ellicott Development Co.’s Fairmont Creamery Building at 199 Scott St. and near Interstate 190, is fully occupied.

Benjamin N. Obletz, president of First Amherst, is capably carrying on the family legacy. He is taking what is formally known as the Lofts @ Elk Terminal to another level with the plan to convert about 35,000 square feet of warehouse space into a mixture of mostly two-bedroom loft-style apartments.

Sizes will range from 1,000 to 1,700 square feet, with rents ranging from $1,095 to $2,000 per month. The expansion is designed by Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects and includes 4,000 square feet of completed office space. A business is already scheduled to move in.

Though there is plenty to talk about on the residential side, that expansion would not happen without new jobs and new industry. Cue the $900 million SolarCity manufacturing plant at RiverBend in South Buffalo. The biggest piece of the governor’s Buffalo Billion, it will become the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the Western Hemisphere.

The first spinoff development at RiverBend is taking shape. Environmental cleanup and then construction may begin in March on a sprawling new multitenant warehouse that will sit directly across the street.

The John W. Danforth Co. got Buffalo Planning Board approval for work on the proposed 83,000-square-foot warehouse. The Tonawanda-based mechanical contracting company will occupy more than half of the one-story facility, allowing it to expand its operation that will serve SolarCity while also reaching its clients in the Southtowns and Southern Tier. The rest of the space is expected to be leased to vendors, suppliers and other businesses linked to SolarCity.

“Momentum” and “Buffalo” have become synonymous, and obvious in the stories about residential and commercial development. It is truly a new day.