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Paula's Donuts gets nod for Larkinville

There's no sugar-coating this: Paula's Donuts will be opening in Larkinville.

The Buffalo Planning Board this week gave the green light to plans by Howard and Leslie Zemsky's Larkin Development Group to construct a pair of two-story buildings on Seneca Street – the larger of which will be anchored by the fourth location of the region's most popular doughnut shop. The new Paula's is expected to open by the end of 2020.

Plans call for the two buildings at 864 and 872 Seneca to mirror similar nearby structures, with cement-board siding, synthetic trims and aluminum-clad windows that bring the streetscape back to a vacant property.

"We’re pretty happy with the look," said Jake Schneider of Schneider Architectural Services, who is working with the Zemskys. "We’re playing off the architecture that is immediately across the street."

Both buildings on the 1.2-acre site near Flying Bison Brewery and Buffalo Distilling will have first-floor retail and apartments upstairs, although no commercial tenant has been identified for the smaller, 4,000-square-foot building. The bigger of the two, at 8,000 square feet, will have four apartments – two one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units – while the other will have a pair of two-bedroom units.

"We’re pleased about this development coming to the neighborhood," said Tim Herzog, owner of Flying Bison, noting that the brewery already has an agreement with the Huber family, which owns Paula's Donuts, to provide food from Paula's to its own customers in order to comply with new state requirements.

The $2 million project includes 42 parking spaces – three times what is required by code, but "we all know Paula's Donuts and how busy they can be during the day," said Thomas Kujawa, also an architect with Schneider. So 14 spaces wouldn't be sufficient. "We know that's not going to handle Paula's," he said.

There will also be an outdoor patio area outside Paula's, at 872 Seneca, with an "iconic sculptural piece" that the Zemskys and Hubers are designing together, Kujawa said.

Larkin already obtained a pair of variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, clearing the way for the project to begin.

"We’re really bringing the neighborhood back to the way it was, back when it was Larkin Soap Co. and the hydraulics. There were no empty lots," Leslie Zemsky said. "So this really completes this whole section. It's a great vibe, and it’s the eastern entrance of the neighborhood."

Paula's Donuts will add to 'great vibe' as three new buildings planned for Larkinville

Meanwhile, just up the street, Larkin is proposing a five-story building at 799 Seneca called Mill Race Commons, with apartments, office space and a host of amenities. The 2-acre former brownfield site has already been cleared, cleaned and covered with gravel as an event parking lot, but was not intended to remain vacant, the Zemskys have previously said.

100 Things Every WNYer Should Do: Go to Paula's Donuts

Plans call for two wings of the 140,000-square-foot building, with one end running along Seneca Street that would contain five retail shops on the ground level and 70 apartments upstairs, with a mix of four studios, 51 one-bedroom units and 15 doubles. It would also feature a sunken and gated swimming pool, fire pit and grill in a rear courtyard, as well as a rooftop patio for tenants, and a fitness center.

"We would like to see more people living in the neighborhood," Leslie Zemsky said. "Our other office buildings are predominantly full, but there is strong interest among businesses to move down to the Larkin neighborhood. They know this is a great recruiting tool, because of the many breweries, businesses and restaurants and Larkin Square that is there for their employees.

"But to have a true live-work-play neighborhood, you have to have more residents. We’re excited to keep bringing the neighborhood along into this next chapter."

Around the corner on Hydraulic Street, the second wing – inspired by the design of an old foundry building – will have five floors of commercial office space, with 10,000 square feet on each level. A single-story connector building will link the two wings of the structure, which is short walk from Larkin Square.

The 1920s-style building design will use "a lot of brick," with different colors and "terrific detailing" that is "very reminiscent of 19th century architecture in Buffalo," Schneider said. It will include Juliet balconies, double-French doors, fiberglass and decorative cornices. The $17 million project will have 72 parking spaces, but will share parking with the Paula's site and other nearby lots owned by Larkin Development.

"I have to applaud," said Planning Board member Martha Lamparelli. "The way you’ve brought in the foundry look, it really complements that whole neighborhood. It’s going to be beautiful."

As with the two smaller buildings, Larkin received two zoning variances that it needed to begin. But the Planning Board had to table the project because it was one vote short of a quorum after Lamparelli recused herself because of a conflict of interest. The project will come back for consideration in two weeks.

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