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Work starts on $18 million Buffalo River Landing residential development

Construction has started on one of the newest residential developments in Buffalo, which will eventually bring dozens of apartments to a former Ohio Street shipping facility site along the Buffalo River.

The developers – Frontier Group of Companies and Savarino Companies – said Thursday that crews this week began leveling the ground for Buffalo River Landing, a mixed-use building in the Old First Ward.

Located at Ohio and South streets, the project sits across the street from Father Conway Park, along the newly restored Ohio Street Corridor that connects downtown to the Outer Harbor.

The same development team is finishing up conversion of the former F.N. Burt Co. warehouse at 500 Seneca St. in Larkinville into the Hydraulics Lofts apartments and office space.

“We are planning on having our first tenants occupy their units in January 2017,” said Luke Cusack, Savarino’s property manager for both 500 Seneca and Buffalo River Landing.

The $18 million project calls for a five-story building, with 78 one- and two-bedroom apartments and first-floor commercial space. The facility will also offer an on-site fitness center, bike and kayak storage, lower-level covered parking and private docks.

Apartments range in size from 770 to 1,620 square feet, with rents from $1,104 for a second-floor one-bedroom apartment to $2,900 for the largest two-bedroom penthouse unit on the top. Units include gas appliances, security controls and optional fireplaces.

The waterfront property is the former site of the Erie Freight House, a nearly 150-year-old former freight warehouse for the Erie Railroad that was used as a transfer point between water and rail shipments.

Samuel Savarino and Frontier bought it in March 2012 for $225,000, with plans for redevelopment.

Chaintreuil Jensen Stark Architects, or CJS, tried to pay homage to the history and architecture of the neighborhood in designing the new complex, whose apartment balconies will look industrial.

The facade will include metal cladding and flat panels in a manner that hearkens back to the materials and design used in the former freight house, while the stair towers will use translucent polycarbonate panels to tie in to nearby grain elevators. “We want the building exterior to reference the rich heritage of the site, so the facade will feature unique textures and colors that evoke local industry,” said principal architect Robert E. Stark.

Savarino and the principals of Frontier – David and Dennis Franjoine, and Robert W. Zuchlewski – teamed up with environmental attorney Craig A. Slater as partners in the redevelopment, which also involves four engineering firms – Benchmark Environmental Corp., Tredo Engineers, Watts Engineers and EBS Engineering.

The group is also working with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper on site consulting and landscaping, which will include native foliage.

Plans also call for the floating docks to be built in a way that fits with planned shoreline habitat restoration, officials said.

Construction is being financed by New York City-based Community Preservation Corp., or CPC, which is also providing an $11.45 million permanent loan through the New York State Common Retirement Fund, insured through the State of New York Mortgage Agency, or SONYMA.

CPC also financed 500 Seneca, in partnership with the state pension fund and SONYMA. Evans National Bank provided interim bridge financing to get started.