Signs of progress at a key location along the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor offer hope that the long-moribund project may finally be gaining some momentum.
City officials and developers conducted a formal kickoff to the conversion of a couple of dilapidated buildings that date back to the 1800s at Michigan Avenue and Broadway. It may have been a bit showy, since crews have been at work stabilizing the buildings for a few months getting them ready for a new life, but no one should mind a little back-slapping.
The complex sits at the intersection’s southeast corner and includes 163 to 167 Broadway, dating to the 1820s, and an adjacent home and carriage house at 64 Nash St., dating to the 1880s. The complex once included the home of the first African-American doctor in Buffalo, Dr. Benjamin C. Taylor, and has had a number of uses. It is also across the street from the historic Colored Musicians Club and around the corner from the Nash House Museum.
Change is coming for the buildings. A group of eight investors, led by prominent architect Steven J. Carmina and developer J. Roger Trettel, have been hard at work on the $6 million plan to redevelop what is being called the Dellenbaugh block. The mixed-used complex is in the heart of the heritage corridor and just east of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and central business district.
The 18-apartment Nash Lofts is targeting the working class, or “workforce housing,” with below-market rents, ideal for workers on the Medical Campus who are
not making $50,000 a year. It will feature restaurants and other advantages, including indoor parking.
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 local chapter of the NAACP and other offices will occupy parts of the space.
In addition, County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, a project supporter, wants to relocate her district office to the building, according to Carmina. Another approximately 1,000 square feet of space is available for lease in a corner of the first floor of the Nash home, in addition to the two-story, 1,800-square-foot carriage house.
This project is a good example of private-public partnership, with the Nash Lofts component receiving approval from the city’s Buffalo Urban Development Corp. for a $750,000 loan under the Buffalo Building Re-Use Project fund. There is also a $450,000 capital grant from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and $1.7 million in historic tax credits, plus regular financing from Evans Bank.
Carmina and Trettel, of Revival Development LLC, saw the potential in the neighborhood after the success of the Compass East mixed-use building at 425 Michigan Ave. That fully occupied building is home to computer tablet maker Bak USA and other tenants. McGuire Development, which transformed the former Sheehan Memorial Hospital building into Compass East, has been given approval to proceed with building a 48,000-square-foot office building nearby.
The rejuvenation of Buffalo has been slow to reach the East Side, but the Dellenbaugh block, Compass East and Northland Corridor are encouraging signs.