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Developers plan $6 million project in Buffalo’s African-American Heritage Corridor

A pair of deteriorating historic buildings on the edge of downtown Buffalo will get a long-needed remake into a mixed-use complex in one of the first big projects linked to the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor.

A group of eight investors, led by prominent architect Steven J. Carmina, wants to spend $6 million to redevelop the 170-year-old Dellenbaugh block at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Broadway. It’s the latest example of developers starting to look beyond Main Street to revive long-suffering inner-city neighborhoods.

The site, located essentially between the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the city’s central business district, sits at one of the eastern gateways to downtown, putting it in a prominent location for the planned residential, commercial and restaurant use.

At one time, it was the office of the first African-American doctor in Buffalo, Dr. Benjamin C. Taylor. And it’s across the street from the historic Colored Musicians Club and around the corner from the Nash House Museum, making it a central part of the city’s history.

“It’s a major part of the Heritage Corridor,” Carmina said. “This will be the first project in the Heritage Corridor to really get done. … We’re actually moving to the East Side, and that’s a statement of pride that it’s finally happening.”

Plans by Carmina Wood Morris DPC for 163-167 Broadway and 60 Nash St. call for 18 one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as an 8,000-square-foot dine-in and takeout restaurant with a banquet facility. There’s also 7,000 more square feet of available commercial space for rent, although Carmina said the investor group is already talking to four or five potential occupants.

Carmina is working with developer J. Roger Trettel, whose Revival Development LLC has previously taken on the renovation of several other buildings in downtown Buffalo. Additionally, the team also includes Bison Electrical Services President Joseph P. Picone, former Common Council Member Brian C. Davis and four others.

The property, named for the Dellenbaughs, a German or Dutch family that originally lived there, consists of several buildings now incorporated into one complex. The corner residence dates back to 1844, when Dr. Frederick Dellenbaugh built a home and carriage house, where he lived and operated his medical office. An addition was later put on the front in 1899, when it become more of a retail building. The property has since housed other medical offices, a pharmacy and a restaurant, while another building was a state garage and car wash.

More recently, the building was targeted as the new home of the Langston Hughes Institute. But that never materialized, and the mortgage holder foreclosed on the property before selling it to the investor group at auction. Carmina said he and Trettel had been eying it for three years.

However, the condition of the properties has deteriorated significantly. Much of the brick has collapsed, compromising the interior structure. The roof on the front addition to the old Dellenbaugh residence has also collapsed, and is pulling the upper wall down with it.

So Carmina wants to get workers in right away to remove damaged portions and shore up the structure. Specifically, he said, the plan is for R&P Oak Hill as construction manager to pull off the 5,000-square-foot roof and get the structure off the top, rebuild the masonry, put a new front roof on, cap it and drain it – “all before the snow flies” this winter.

“If we get really cranking this year and get the building enclosed, we can be ready for occupancy next fall,” Carmina said.

The project will be coming before both the Planning and Preservation boards, although a repair permit is all that’s needed for the immediate emergency work.

Carmina said the group plans to seek state and federal historic tax credits, and is also talking to New York State Homes and Community Renewal about obtaining Housing Finance Agency credits. They are also in contact already with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for adaptive re-use tax breaks, and have applied for state funding through the regular “Consolidated Funding Application” process, with help from the administration of Mayor Byron W. Brown. M&T Bank will also provide short-term business loans, while the investors will apply to the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. for a short-term bridge loan.

“It’s not going to mean anything for anybody, but we want to do something for the neighborhood,” Carmina said. “It’s a combination of our being preservationists, all of us at heart, and wanting to do something good, and wanting it to be successful and make money.”


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