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Buffalo Planning Board approves shipping container home in Old First Ward

The Buffalo Planning Board approved a proposal for a new home made mostly out of shipping containers.

The board also backed the conversions of a former West Side industrial building and a former church school into apartments.

Planners Monday night gave the go-ahead to city resident Michael Heidinger to erect a single-family residence at 71-73 Louisiana St., to be made partly from five empty shipping containers.

The two-bedroom home will be located in the Old First Ward neighborhood near the Buffalo River.

About 80 percent of the first floor and part of the second floor will be constructed from the metal containers, while the rest of the home would be standard stick-frame construction.

The project, which already received a zoning variance, was warmly received by the Planning Board when it first came up earlier this month, but was tabled to allow time for the homeowner and architect Mike Anderson of Abstract Architecture to meet with members of the Valley Community Association and Old First Ward Community Center, some of whom had expressed concerns and questions. Those objections were withdrawn following a pair of meetings last week, Anderson said.

The Planning Board also backed Savarino Companies’ proposal to convert the former St. Clare Catholic Church school at 169 Elk St. into 11 new market-rate apartments and some first-floor commercial space, with 12 parking spaces. The $1.2 million proposal calls for mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments, plus one three-bedroom unit, in the four-story, 15,400-square-foot stone edifice, which Savarino is buying from the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo for $200,000.

The century-old building, which resembles a medieval castle, is part of the larger St. Clare Parish, which is discussing a merger with St. Teresa’s in South Buffalo.

Additionally, planners considered but could not vote on a proposal by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. to convert the former Mentholatum Co. headquarters and warehouse building at 1360 Niagara St. into 50 or 51 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the West Side. The board gave inadequate notice of the routine public hearings, preventing a formal vote.

The project also needs a rezoning of 1336, 1340 and 1360 Niagara from light industrial to general commercial to allow for residential use.

Finally, the Planning Board also recommended approval by the Common Council of a request by Vasilis Panagopoulos to reopen a take-out restaurant at 1900 Hertel Ave., in the Hertel Avenue Special District.