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Building Update: Factory apartments planned near Canisius College

Building Update is a regular feature highlighting progress on development projects throughout the region.

Project name: The Mattress Factory

Address: 170 Florida St., Buffalo

Developer: Karl Frizlen

Cost: $6 million

Description: Conversion of former factory and warehouse into mixed-use apartment building with office space.

Completion date: Summer 2017

Lowdown: A former Hamlin Park factory building one block from Main Street will be converted into a new mixed-use building led by apartments if architect-turned-developer Karl Frizlen wins city approvals.

Frizlen wants to spend $6 million to transform the 46,000-square-foot, two story building at 170 Florida St. into The Mattress Factory, with 34 market-rate apartments and 2,000 square feet of commercial space.

Plans for the open-floorplate structure call for mostly two-bedroom apartments, with either one or two bathrooms, and some one-bedroom units, ranging in size from 700 to just over 1,000 square feet. Rents will vary from $900 to $1,250 per month.

Frizlen noted that the building is close to Canisius College, making it potentially appealing for students or staff, but “we’re not gearing it strictly toward students.” It’s also a block away from the Delavan station of Metro Rail, enabling an easy commute to downtown, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus or University at Buffalo’s South Campus.

Ironically, the office space will be occupied by Preservation Studios, an architectural and design firm that specializes in historic preservation projects. Frizlen’s project, located in the Hamlin Park Historic District, qualifies as a historic project, making it eligible for both federal and state tax credits.

Frizlen also plans to seek a city property tax break, but no brownfield tax credits or other government incentives, including from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. “It’s such a hassle to go through that, so I don’t believe we will do that,” he said.

The former George A. Otis Bed Manufacturing building dates back to 1911, when that company’s predecessor, the N.P. Chaney Company, began building the concrete portion, as it grew to become one of the largest mattress manufacturers in the state. The company changed names within a year, and later added the brick and tile buildings between 1923 and 1925, along with other additions and outbuildings over several decades.

During World War II, the factory was used by Bernard Oishei – brother of Trico Products Corp. founder John Oishei – to make plastic products. It was also used by several other manufacturers, including parachute maker Irving Air Chutes, DuBois Plastics and Fibron Products, which eventually went bankrupt and sold the building.

The 1.5-acre property includes secondary buildings and extends to Jefferson Avenue, giving it plenty of parking. A city-owned “linear” park sits behind it.

The project will come before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday, and also needs Planning Board approval. Construction is slated to start in late summer, and finish a year later.