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Construction begins on Nash Lofts on Michigan Avenue

A year from now, a pair of dilapidated buildings that date back to the 1800s at Michigan Avenue and Broadway will house a new restaurant, the local chapter of the NAACP, offices and 18 apartments.

The goal is to capitalize on and highlight their location at one of the gateways to downtown Buffalo, in the heart of the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor.

City officials and developers on Thursday formally kicked off the conversion of the buildings at Michigan Avenue and Broadway into a new mixed-use complex, although crews have already been at work stabilizing and preparing the dilapidated structures for a few months.

A group of eight investors, led by architect Steven J. Carmina and developer Roger Trettel, are converting the 19th-century buildings that make up what's called the Dellenbaugh block into 18 new apartments, office space, indoor parking and a restaurant.

As part of the Nash Lofts project, the city's Buffalo Urban Development Corp. approved a $750,000 "bridge" loan under the Buffalo Building Re-Use Project fund, while the project also received a $450,000 capital grant from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council. The project is also being funded with $1.7 million in historic tax credits, plus regular financing from Evans Bank.

The complex at the southeast corner of the intersection includes 163 to 167 Broadway, which date to the 1820s, and an adjacent home and carriage house at 64 Nash St., dating to the 1880s. The complex, which once included the home of the city's first African-American doctor, have since housed an armory, a state garage and car wash, medical offices, a pharmacy and a restaurant. It's across the street from the Colored Musicians Club and around the corner from the Nash House Museum.

The $6 million project, designed by Carmina Wood Morris PC, will feature 16 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units, ranging in size from 560 to 1,100 square feet. Rents have not yet been determined, but Carmina said the apartments are aimed at so-called "workforce housing," which means the prices would be below market rates.

Additionally, the 40,000-square-foot complex will include an 8,000-square foot restaurant and 9,052 square feet of commercial space. The restaurant will be run by Kathleen "Kat" Tyler, an investor in the ownership group, who also owns 2nd Cup on Broadway and has a catering business. The final nature and name of the sit-down eatery have not yet been determined, but Carmina previously indicated it could be a high-end jazz dinner club.

The Buffalo chapter of the NAACP will take up 1,500 square feet of space in the old arsenal garage, along with County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, a project supporter who wants to relocate her district office to that building, Carmina said. There's also about 1,000 square feet of space available for lease in a corner of the first floor of the Nash home, as well as the two-story, 1,800-square-foot carriage house.

Contractors under R&P Oak Hill already performed emergency stabilization that "is sort of barely holding things together," Carmina said. That included safety preparations and erecting barriers for people going into the building for work, to block off certain unsafe areas. They also put up some steel to stabilize some walls where the structure behind them will be removed.

Work will begin in earnest in about two weeks, starting with the Nash side, with select demolition and abatement to pull out the damaged portions of the structures. That will be followed by brick and masonry restoration, rebuilding the floor systems and then carving out the apartment spaces.

Carmina said he hopes to finish all exterior and roof work by December, so that crews can work through the winter building out the interior, finish in the spring and start renting units by July 2018.

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