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Developers plan $6 million project on Buffalo's Tonawanda Street

A pair of adaptive-reuse developers are planning their latest project at a former freight house on the West Side, hoping to create a combination of apartments and retail space in a Black Rock building.

Karl Frizlen and Jason Yots plan to spend nearly $6 million to redevelop the former New York Central Freight House at 68 Tonawanda St. into 37 apartments and an unspecified 1,300-square-foot retail area.

The single-story brick building has vaulted ceilings and contains many of its original features. It's eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and Frizlen and Yots said they plan to seek federal and state historic tax credits to help pay for the project.

“The building has great bones," said Frizlen, president of Frizlen Group, who will serve as the project architect. “The exceptionally tall ceilings and linear configuration will allow us to create ‘true lofts’ in a townhouse setting. It will be a unique product for Buffalo.”

The neighborhood around the project has already seen nearly $100 million in new development in recent years, and the duo plan to reach out to community and planning groups in the area for input about the type of commercial or retail space desired for the new building. “The retail piece is crucial, for both the project and the neighborhood,” said Yots, an attorney, owner of Common Bond Real Estate and president and CEO of Preservation Studios, a historic preservation consulting firm. “We intend to proceed carefully to make certain that we introduce retail offerings that build on Black Rock’s growing momentum.”

The project will be considered by the Zoning Board of Appeals on Nov. 16, and must then come before the city Planning Board for site plan approval. If it passes muster, the developers hope to start construction work by mid-2017, with an opening slated for mid-2018.

This is the most recent historic renovation project in the city, and one of an increasing number that are targeting buildings outside the core downtown area because there are fewer buildings left there to rehab. It's also just the newest venture for both Frizlen and Yots' Common Bond, which are also teaming up on the Mattress Factory project in the city's Hamlin Park historic district, which is now underway. That project will convert an East Side warehouse into 34 apartments and a new headquarters for Preservation Studios.

Additionally, ZBA will consider:

  • *A proposed three-story, nine-unit apartment building at 297 West Utica St., with one first-floor apartment and four units on each of the other two floors. The project would include nine parking spaces.
  • *A proposed conversion of a four-unit apartment building to an eight-unit building at 49 Cottage St., with a basement apartment, three units on the first floor, and two on each of the second and third floors.


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