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Work on Main Street student housing underway, but modifications planned

Construction is underway on the conversion of a former industrial complex on Main Street into a mixed-use student housing project, but the developer is modifying several elements of the plan.

David Freeman's DF Fusion of Provo, Utah, is spending $30 million to redevelop part of the properties at 2929-2939 Main into 321 residential units for upper class and graduate students, after more than 80 years as manufacturing space.

The project is aimed at University at Buffalo, as well as other nearby schools. It would include a mixture of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, as well as a fitness center.

Plans call for demolishing parts of the 4.49-acre, multi-building manufacturing complex that are more deteriorated, while reusing and redeveloping two remaining structures along the southwestern boundary and constructing a five-story complex. There would be about 212,000 square feet of residential space in all, plus about 1,500 square feet for accessory retail and commercial use.

The project received needed zoning variances and was originally approved by the city in July 2017, with a six-month extension in January. Workers had already begun their environmental cleanup investigation work, but needed more time to work on engineering issues. Located near the LaSalle Metro Rail station, the William Price development and McCarthy Park, the site was previously occupied by Keystone Corp., a metal fabrication shop that relocated.

Planning Board approves student housing extension

But as construction began, the developer and his team decided to make some design changes, including:

  • Replacing fiber cement with metal panels on the facade because of the new material's increased durability and strength, as well as a "stronger tie to the historical use of the property" for metal plating;
  • Increasing the amount of interior green space for the landscaping by planting more trees;
  • Adding another 53 on-site parking spaces to the 230 already included;
  • Reducing the building height by four feet to 65 feet;
  • Raising the site four feet on the east end;
  • Eliminating balconies from the north and south facades; and
  • Changing some of the lighting.

In a letter to the Planning Board, project attorney Mark A. Romanowski noted that "none of these changes is significant either individually or cumulatively," and said the changes even make it more compliant with the Green Code, with less of an impact on neighboring properties. In particular, he wrote that the grading and landscaping changes were caused by the need to change the remediation plan for the property under the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Construction is expected to take 18 to 20 months, according to the application.

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