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Preservation Board backs plan to build apartments on Allen Street

It's taken a few months to get there, but May Wang finally has the Preservation Board's blessing for a plan to put up a three-story apartment building on Allen Street.

The city panel last week gave its unanimous approval for her $1.7 million project at 15 Allen St., after Wang and her architect came back with new colors for the exterior.

Instead of a darker gray for the fiber-cement panel, the building will feature a lighter shade of gray designed to fit in better with the surrounding neighborhood, while the masonry went from almost black to a more buff tone.

With that change by architect Adam Sokol, the board backed Wang's plan to demolish most of the existing two-story building, retain as much of the historic facade as possible and erect the new building in its place.

"Context is one of the really important things in historic preservation," said Paul McDonnell, chairman of the Preservation Board. "Adam did a nice job. He really toned down things. His original design was trying to accentuate the new, to make it stand out. We felt that it stood out too much."

The project still needs a final approval from the city Planning Board, which Sokol hopes to get by the end of July.

A rendering of the proposed project at 15 Allen St.

Wang, through Mayflower Allen Property LLC, originally wanted to renovate the two-story, red-brick building, but changed direction after she was unable to secure historic tax credits to make the project work. Board members had initially balked at the demolition plan when it was first proposed for the entire structure, but in late March approved the concept of retaining the facade and tearing down the rest.

A recent structural report from Siracuse Engineers, however, threw doubt on whether the front wall could be safely stabilized and shored up during construction because of the way it was built. The engineer, Cathy Styn, also cited deterioration of the first-floor facade around the storefronts.

Sokol's new plan envisions dismantling the facade, but retaining all visible materials that are in good condition or could be restored, including brick, cast stone trim, cornices, banding, door and window jambs, sills, headers and the original second-floor windows. The rest would be demolished, but the salvaged elements would be incorporated into a new facade that would be constructed as similar as possible to the old.

Owner May Wang had sought to demolish the two-story building at 15 Allen St., but the board's approval last week hinged on leaving the front wall standing to remain part of a streetscape that preservationists are vigilantly trying to keep intact. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

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