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Frizlen, Yots plan second Black Rock project

Developers Karl Frizlen and Jason Yots have teamed up for a second reuse project in the city's Black Rock neighborhood.

The pair unveiled plans this week to convert a pair of Chandler Street brick warehouses into a mixed-use residential and commercial complex.

Frizlen, an architect, and Yots, a historic preservation consultant, want to spend $5.2 million to transform the former Jewett Refrigerator Factory at 27 Chandler and the former Double Brass Cornice Brake Company building at 37 Chandler.

Plans designed by Frizlen Group call for 41 affordable "micro" apartments in the two buildings, with one-bedroom units and two-bedroom units aimed students and "entry-level" workers. The project also will include 700 square feet of office space.

“We’re currently searching for a dynamic mix of office tenants that will appreciate a cooperative work environment,” Yots, who owns Common Bond Real Estate, said in a statement about the project.

The proposal was scheduled to come before the city's Zoning Board of Appeals for a use variance on Dec. 21, before it goes to the Planning Board for site approval. But Frizlen and Yots requested it be tabled until they can meet with the neighborhood block club. The project will also need approval from the State Historic Preservation Office and National Park Service to qualify for state and federal historic tax credits. Frizlen and Yots hope to begin construction by mid-2017.

This is the third venture Frizlen and Yots have undertaken together in the last year. It comes on the heels of a $6 million adaptive reuse project the duo launched this fall to convert the former New York Central Freight House building at 68 Tonawanda St. into 37 apartments and retail space.

Earlier this year, they also announced they would renovate the former George A. Otis Bed Manufacturing building at 170 Florida St., in the Hamlin Park neighborhood, into The Mattress Factory, with 34 market-rate apartments and 2,000 square feet of commercial space for Yots' Preservation Studios and others. That project is under construction.

The new Chandler Street Lofts project is the latest example of increased attention on Black Rock and the West Side. Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., Natale Development, Ellicott Development Co. and Schneider Development, among others, are tackling mixed-use redevelopment projects on Niagara Street and Busti Avenue.

Rocco Termini, through his Signature Development Buffalo LLC, said in September he planned to spend $8 million to convert the former Linde Air Manufacturing facility at 155 Chandler St. into a mixed-use complex that includes office space for software developers, a brewery bottling and canning facility and a winery.

Chandler Street is currently targeted as a "live/work" area under the city's Tonawanda Street Brownfield Opportunity Area.

Both also capitalize on the history of the Black Rock neighborhood, which was once an independent village separate from Buffalo, and the sites' proximity to old Belt Line Railroad that traversed the city's industrial zones. The 24,640-square-foot, three-story Jewett warehouse building dates back to 1901, while the 12,760-square-foot Double Brass building, which recently housed Horsefeathers Antiques, was constructed in 1902. Both properties, on 1.15 acres, are currently owned by Henry Sontag Sr.

“Black Rock is one of the oldest and most historically significant neighborhoods in Buffalo, and the Buffalo Belt Line Railroad once was the commercial spine of the city,” Yots said. "Investing in Black Rock and along the Belt Line aligns well with our business model of reinvesting in underserved historic neighborhoods.”

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