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Frizlen, Yots plan $25 million transformation of Old First Ward manufacturing facility

The developers behind a former freight house conversion in Black Rock are now turning their attention to the Old First Ward, unveiling a $25 million rehabilitation of a former production facility into market-rate apartments and specialty commercial space.

Karl Frizlen and Jason Yots are planning to transform the Barcalo Manufacturing Complex at Louisiana and Republic streets into a residential and office building.

Located at 225 Louisiana St., the renovated mixed-use building will feature 80 to 90 market-rate apartments as well as additional space designed for light manufacturers, artisan makers, neighborhood shops and local artists.

The goal is to capitalize on continued demand for new rental housing in the city, as well as the ongoing growth of the neighborhood along the nearby Buffalo River.

That's an area where recreational activities have increased with Buffalo RiverWorks, boat launches and Riverfest Park, while developers Sam Savarino and Ellicott Development Co. already put up new apartment buildings along Ohio Street. And more new construction or redevelopment is planned on several sites, including Ellicott's Cooperage on Chicago Street.

“We are attracted to this building because of its location and its development potential," said Frizlen, who will act as project architect while his firm, Frizlen Group, manages and leases the new building. "We will attempt to enhance the neighborhood based on community input we receive."

Officials also cited easy access to both downtown Buffalo and Larkinville, as well as the proximity to the Father Conway Park – across the street from the project site – and the future "high line trail" along the DL&W path.

Amenities will include a rooftop patio with views of the grain elevators, as well as indoor parking, bike and kayak storage, and a dog-washing station. The building will also feature "green" elements, such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels and high-efficiency appliances.

This is the latest project for Frizlen and Yots, who previously teamed up on the Black Rock Freight House at 68 Tonawanda St., where they are transforming the long and slender former New York Central Railroad facility into 35 apartments and 3,000 square feet of space. Work on the $10 million project is now underway, although the adaptive reuse project has faced challenges because of the building's significant deterioration.

Work to begin this month on Black Rock Freight House project

The duo previously renovated the former Otis Bed Co. building on Florida Street into the Mattress Factory Lofts, with 34 apartments and the new headquarters for Yots' Preservation Studios. Yots also owns Common Bond Real Estate, his development arm.

Frizlen, Yots to unveil Mattress Factory apartments

Frizlen has also been active with other projects in the city, notably the conversions of three closed former Catholic schools in North and South Buffalo into apartments, as well as other ventures on Hertel Avenue and Potomac Avenue.

Building Update: Three parish schools becoming apartments

Barcalo Manufacturing Co. – which is best known for its famous "Barcalounger" recliners – made a wide range of products during its history including metal furniture, mattresses, box springs, hand tools, car parts and airplane plates. The complex includes eight buildings that were constructed between 1896 and 1917.

The company ceased operations at the Buffalo site in 1963, but the complex has been owned for several decades by the Sansone family, which maintained the site with a mix of light commercial and artist tenants.

The multistory brick complex features high ceilings and original details, with about 175,000 square feet of space that can be developed. It's eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and Preservation Studios will handle the applications for federal and state historic tax credits to finance the project.

“The building design will retain and showcase existing historic features and will incorporate energy-efficient and environmentally friendly strategies," Frizlen said.

The building is also located in one of the new federal Qualified Opportunity Zones, which provide for other tax benefits for outside investors that the developers can use to raise capital. And the complex is located in a state Environmental Zone and is adjacent to a New York Brownfield Opportunity Area. The developers also plan to participate in the state Brownfield Cleanup Program – with accompanying state tax credits for remediation and redevelopment – if environmental testing finds contamination.

"Our Tonawanda Street project was accepted into the BCP, so we’re equipped to handle another cleanup, if necessary,” Yots said.

Those credits, as well as property tax breaks that Frizlen and Yots will pursue, will help them bring the rents down enough to be affordable for tenants earning 80 percent of the area median income "without jeopardizing the financial viability of the project," Yots said.

Frizlen and Yots plan to seek municipal approvals in early spring, before acquiring the property and starting construction later this year. Plans call for opening by late 2020 or early 2021.

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