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New Hertel Avenue apartments to be named after historic, vanished creek

The name of a 19th-century North Buffalo creek that was buried long ago is coming back to life – as apartments and retail.

Seeking to capture a century-old piece of Western New York history, Iskalo Development Corp. has decided to name its newest residential conversion project after Cornelius Creek.

The waterway, shown on maps dating to the 1870s, once ran along Hertel Avenue before emptying into the Niagara River at what is now Black Rock Canal Park. Except for its historic outlet into the river, the creek was covered over as the City of Buffalo expanded north.

Now, the redevelopment of the former St. Margaret's Parish Elementary School on Hertel Avenue – formerly Cornelius Creek Road – will be dubbed "The Cornelius" to recall that history.

The Amherst developer is converting the school into 23 market-rate apartments and 2,000 square feet of retail space. The $5.4 million project is expected to be completed and opened in July.

St. Margaret's School on Hertel Avenue, shown in 2013, will be turned into apartments. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

"We were surprised to learn that a creek once flowed alongside Hertel Avenue, originating from a point near St. Margaret's Parish," Paul B. Iskalo, the developer's president and CEO, said in a news release. "As a new chapter in the story of this landmark North Buffalo building is about to begin, we thought it would be appropriate to acknowledge some part of its past."

Originally built in 1917 as St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church, the 100-year-old building at 1391 Hertel was later converted to the parish elementary school after a new church was built just to the east. Later, in 1967, the parish put on an addition to the north side of the school and removed the original entrance. The school's enrollment peaked in the 1980s but steadily declined afterwards until closing in 2012.

Iskalo acquired the three-story building in 2015. The plans call for one- and two-bedroom apartments, ranging from 750 to 1,350 square feet. All of the units will include high-end finishes, as well as large windows and tall ceilings of up to 14 feet on the second floor. The apartments will start at $1,150 for one-bedroom apartments and $1,650 for two-bedroom units.

The project will include parking in a gated lot behind the building. There will also be on-site storage and secure building access, and some units have outdoor patios.

"The former school building possessed the three most important things we look for in real estate: a great location, tall floor-to-ceiling heights, and abundant, large window openings," said Iskalo Executive Vice President David Chiazza, who said the apartments would be "spacious and is cheerfully bright."

Crews are replacing the 1967-era facade on Hertel to freshen up the building's appearance. That will also restore the building's connection to Hertel, through a storefront plaza.

The project received $236,000 in tax breaks from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

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