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Sinatra plans apartments for Harvard Place building

A brick building on Harvard Place that once housed a maternity home would become apartments under a plan by developer Nick Sinatra.

Sinatra and Company Real Estate has sought approval for a $4.3 million project to turn the former Ingleside Home at 70 Harvard Place into 24 market-rate apartments.

The Georgian Colonial brick complex most recently housed the Community Action Organization for the last 40 years, but the latest project's focus on housing seeks to capitalize on its location close to bus and rail service on Main Street, as well as recent growth in that part of the city.

Sinatra in recent years spent $5 million to renovate the Fenton Village at the corner of Main and Ferry - where he now lives - as well as the Wayne and Waldorf Apartments further down Main Street.

He is wrapping up the $10 million redevelopment of the Midtown Apartments around the corner, at 1661 Main. And he has also bought other properties in the city in preparation for further projects, including a first-floor cafe and second-floor commercial space that he plans for 1501 Main, across from the Fenton. That project will come to the Planning Board in a few weeks.

"We are extremely bullish on that Cold Springs pocket," said Sinatra, referring to the surrounding neighborhood. "We're making very large investments. It's a great spot. It's a great neighborhood."

The site also is two blocks from Gates Circle, where TM Montante Development has planned a remake of the 6.7-acre former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital that will include up to 500 residential units, a grocery store, a fitness facility and street-level retail. Canterbury Woods is constructing a six-story senior community at Gates Circle, while People Inc. has proposed a senior building on a parking lot at Linwood and Lancaster avenues.

The plan for the Harvard Place building calls for four floors of apartments. The first three floors would have a mix of one- and two-bedroom units. Rents are still to be determined, but probably similar to the Fenton, at $1,000 to $1,250 per month. The building would also have tenant storage and commercial laundry, along with one large two-bedroom unit, on the basement level.

The Harvard Place building dates to 1929, according to city real estate records, but other records show the Ingleside Maternity Home had already been located at that address for decades. Ingleside was originally founded by Charlotte Lewis and incorporated in 1869 as The Ingleside Home for Reclaiming the Erring. It redirected its focus after 1923 to serve unwed mothers and their babies, according to historical records.

Most recently, the building housed Community Action Organization offices, a food pantry and HeadStart program. CAO moved to 45 Jewett Parkway, and Sinatra bought the building in April 2016 for $1 million.

"The building itself is a beautiful, traditional Buffalo architectural gem. It's got a lot of character," he said. "When I heard it was for sale, I jumped on it, because the building is just perfect for conversion to apartments."

The renovation project will be completed as a historic reuse under the supervision of the State Historic Preservation Office and National Park Service, making it eligible for state and federal tax credits to offset Sinatra's investment. Existing corridors and entrances will be kept, as will existing driveways, parking areas and sidewalks outside on the 3.4-acre site.

The property is also unusually large for the city, Sinatra noted, allowing tenants plenty of space "to relax, barbecue, put up hammocks and all kinds of neat things you can do that are atypical of an inner-city apartment area."

The project will be considered at the Planning Board's Dec. 19 meeting. If it is approved, Sinatra hopes to start construction by February and complete work by December 2017.

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