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Building Buffalo: Hotel and apartments on Pearl Street

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

Project name: 500 Pearl

Address: 500 Pearl St., Buffalo

Developer: Ellicott Development Co.

Cost: $75 million

Government assistance: Uncertain

Description: Construction of new 12-story, 300,000-square-foot mixed-use tower on surface parking lot next to Buffalo Christian Center building

Completion date: 2017

Lowdown: Ellicott Development Co.’s plan to build a 12-story mixed-use tower complex in downtown Buffalo overcame a major hurdle this week, when the Common Council refused to grant landmark status to a small apartment building on Franklin Street that has to come down as part of the $75 million project, as planned.

The Council’s decision means Ellicott can now demolish the four-story, 90-year-old Bachelor Apartments Building at 329-331 Franklin St., after relocating the remaining tenants from its 12 units. Ellicott purchased the building for $2.525 million from Sinatra & Company Real Estate, which had owned it since August 2014.

“That’s the news we wanted,” said Tom Fox, director of development for Ellicott.

Ellicott, led by CEO William Paladino, wants to erect a 300,000-square-foot building on a vacant 100-space surface parking lot next to the Buffalo Christian Center, at 500 Pearl St. The tower would include a parking ramp with six floors of 390 parking spaces, a three-story hotel with 109 to 112 rooms, and 28 apartments on two upper floors. Plans also include 12,000 square feet of first-floor retail and one floor of 28,000 square feet of office space. The project covers the corner of Franklin and Tupper streets, where the Bachelor Apartments stand.

The 70,000-square-foot Buffalo Christian Center would be incorporated into the complex, housing the main lobby, lounge area, a cafe, banquet and meeting spaces, a basement pool and spa, and back-of-house hotel functions. Road Less Traveled Productions would also remain in that building’s Forbes Theatre.

The project, designed by Kideney Architects, has already received approvals from Buffalo Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, and work was slated to begin in April. But the Preservation Board voted to declare the Bachelor Building a historic landmark, citing its history as one of the oldest existing apartment buildings in the city that was originally constructed for that purpose. It was built in 1886 and was one of the first structures designed by Green and Wicks, an architectural firm established in Auburn, N.Y., only two years earlier.

That board’s unanimous vote threatened to derail the 500 Pearl project, because Ellicott said it needed to use that property as part of the parking ramp in order to make the project feasible.

With the threat removed, however, Fox said the developer is now “continuing to move ahead as before.” Officials are still fine-tuning the design plans and construction schedule over the next few weeks before obtaining demolition and building permits. “We have quite a bit of design left, but we’re working on the plans through the rest of the spring,” he said.