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4-story luxury apartment building proposed for North Street in Buffalo’s Allentown section

Two years after a lightning strike severely damaged a historic Allentown building and led to an emergency demolition, First Amherst Development Group is ready to build a new four-story luxury apartment building on its site.

The Snyder-based developer is proposing to construct a new 39-unit residential complex at 19 North St., with a mix of 13 apartments on each of the upper three floors and secure covered parking underneath. The site is adjacent to the vacant Genrich three-story brick masonry building to the east, while a five-story brick masonry apartment building sits to the west on the other side of a parking lot.

The 52,250-square-foot building would feature 24 two-bedroom apartments and 15 one-bedroom units, ranging in size from 850 to 1,650 square feet, with commercial-grade but residential-style windows. The facade would have “lots of stone” and a beige-gray brick facing North Street, with bronze metal panels and a cast-stone base similar in appearance to Indiana limestone.

“We realized the historic nature of the neighborhood and have developed a project that is in keeping with that neighborhood that we think it historically significant,” said First Amherst President and CEO Benjamin N. Obletz. “We wanted to have something that was modern and appealing, but was sympathetic to the historic nature of the neighborhood.”

Rental rates have not yet been determined, but Obletz said the units will have “upscale finishes,” including granite countertops, hardwood floors and walk-in closets. “You’ll have the best of both worlds in the project we have planned,” he said.

Plans by HHL Architects call for 40 parking spaces in a secured private asphalt lot at grade level, covered by steel-framed canopies and screened by exterior brick, stone and decorative concrete masonry walls, with metal fencing and gates for access. The lower-level enclosed building areas near the parking would include the building’s secure lobby, a maintenance office, mechanical equipment, and both elevators and stairs for access to the apartments.

The project, dubbed Nineteen North, is expected to cost about $6.5 million and will be funded in part by brownfield tax credits for which First Amherst has already received approval. The project has also received zoning variances in June and was approved Thursday by the city Preservation Board, which was necessary because the site is located in the Allentown historic district. On Monday, the Planning Board approved the project.

First Amherst hopes to start site remediation in the fall, with construction beginning in March or April of 2017, followed by nine or 10 months of construction. The new building would open in spring 2018.

Obletz cited the building’s location just two blocks from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and Metro Rail station as particularly attractive, noting that it “sits in the shadows of hundreds of millions of dollars of construction.”

“We think the location is a plus for the Medical Campus, but at the same time, Allentown is very hot right now and there’s a lot of people that want to be in Allentown,” he said. “So from a location standpoint, it doesn’t get any better. When we open the project in 2018, we’ll be well-positioned for all of the new jobs that are coming to the Medical Campus at the same time.”

First Amherst had originally acquired the property and its Second Empire-style mansion in July 2006 for $155,000 from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, and had planned to spend $6 million to redevelop the 11,000-square-foot building at 23 North into 25 residential apartments, using historic tax credits. But the devastating lightning strike in July 2014, which caused a large part of the roof and the third floor to collapse to the ground, abruptly changed those plans, leading to 18 months of work on the new design.


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