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Developers of Pierce-Arrow building in North Buffalo seek tax breaks

A New York City firm that plans to redevelop the Pierce-Arrow administration building in North Buffalo into apartments wants tax breaks from the county to get the $29 million project done.

Read Property Group and previous owner Joseph Hecht want to renovate the 190,000-square-foot complex on Elmwood Avenue.

The project includes the historic administration building, as well as an adjacent garage where Pierce-Arrow cars were once stored and tested before they were shipped. The 110-year-old buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hecht, who remains the local representative for the project, owned the long-underused building from 2005 until he sold it last year to Brooklyn-based Read, an experienced real estate developer that has completed rehabilitation projects in the New York City area. Owned and run by Robert Wolf, Read also owns and manages market-rate and affordable rental apartments in several states.

Plans by Flynn Battaglia Architects and Studio T3 Engineering call for about 107 lofts in the 123,099-square-foot main building, with one-bedroom units renting for about $900 a month and two-bedroom units going for $1,900 per month.

The three-story brick-and-stone building will also include 10,000 square feet of commercial space on the second floor in a 32-foot arched area that once housed a dining room for Pierce-Arrow workers. The complex will include laundry, a management office, fitness center, lounge and other retail services to support tenants.

Next door, the garage will have 85 parking spaces, through a 7,600-square-foot addition on the north side of the main building, with additional surface parking spaces outside. The garage conversion will cost about $4 million.

The developer has applied to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for $112,500 in mortgage recording tax breaks and $1.05 million in sales tax incentives. It will seek a separate property tax break through a standard city program.

“When completed, the infusion of 150 to 200 residents and staff to this area will greatly enhance the economic vigor of this key blossoming portion of Elmwood Avenue,” Read and Hecht wrote in their application.

The total cost of the project includes $3.85 million for acquisition costs, $600,000 for the addition, $21.8 million for renovation work, $750,000 in equipment and furnishings and $1.7 million in “soft costs” for architectural and other professional services.

The Pierce-Arrow Administration Building, located at 1685 Elmwood Avenue. (Buffalo News/Google)

The project will be funded with $20.6 million in equity, $1.2 million in state brownfield tax credits and $7 million in state and federal historic tax credits. Read and Hecht have applied to remediate the property under state supervision through the Brownfield Cleanup Program and are working with the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service.

The developers say the project “may not be financially viable” and would likely not be undertaken without the tax credits and tax breaks. They cited the costs of bringing the 110-year-old buildings into compliance with modern codes, as well as meeting cleanup and historic preservation standards. Repairs are also needed to the exterior masonry. The new apartments have to be priced competitively, limiting potential revenues, they said.

The project has already been approved by the city Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. Hecht and Read hope to start work by March 15 and finish a year later, with occupancy by June 2018.


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