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Sinatra, Pawlik seek approval for nonprofit hub on Jefferson

Developers Nick Sinatra and David Pawlik are hoping the Buffalo Planning Board will just "say yes" on Monday to their proposed nonprofit office hub on Jefferson Avenue.

Sinatra's Sinatra & Company Real Estate and Pawlik's CSS Construction are seeking approval to erect a new 35,000-square-foot office building at 1200 Jefferson, aimed at attracting nonprofit tenants to the East Side.

Already, several tenants, reportedly including Say Yes Buffalo, have committed to the project, although no leases have yet been signed for the proposed three-story building, which was originally envisioned as a medical office facility. Upon completion, it would be located on 1.49 acres near the People Inc. project that Sinatra and Pawlik are also constructing, as well as a new Northwest Bank branch that they already completed.

The steel building's facade will feature brick, stone veneer, fiber cement siding, aluminum storefront and glazing, and the $7 million project also includes 97 parking spaces, plus bicycle storage and racks, according to documents submitted to the city.

The project, which includes demolition of an existing commercial building and cleanup of multiple properties, requires zoning variances as well as Planning Board approval.

Additionally, the Planning Board on April 8 will also consider a coastal consistency determination and zoning map amendment for the proposed Barcalo mixed-use project by architect-turned-developer Karl Frizlen and Jason Yots.

Located at 175-245 Louisiana St., the project entails adaptive reuse of a 175,000-square-foot former brick and concrete manufacturing facility that produced Barcaloungers. The complex would be turned into 119 loft apartments and 40,000 square feet of commercial office space for a restaurant, laundromat, art space and cafe.

It will also include kayak storage and a 46-space indoor parking garage, along with two exterior parking lots with 92 more spaces on three adjacent properties.

The 4.18-acre site, located near the Buffalo River and Father Conway Park will be remediated of asbestos and other toxins under the state Brownfield Cleanup Program, and part of the adjacent properties will be used for bio-retention and open space. Plans also include solar energy and geothermal heating.

Also on the board's agenda is a special-use permit for Daniel and Briana Hunter, who want to open a second location of their Breezy Burrito Bar at 1000 Elmwood Ave., with seasonal sidewalk cafes on both Elmwood and Potomac avenues. The Hunters, who already operate the Breezy Burrito Co. as part of the Expo Market at 617 Main St., also plan to serve alcohol in the Tex-Mex restaurant.

Frizlen had also planned to seek separate approval for an unrelated request to convert the now-empty auditorium in the former St. Thomas Aquinas School in South Buffalo into general office space for State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo.

The developer already spent $5.2 million to convert the rest of the school into 32 loft-style apartments, dubbed the School Lofts @ Abbott, but struggled to figure out what to do creatively with the open space while still satisfying historic preservation requirements. In particular, he couldn't convert it into apartments because the State Historic Preservation Office and National Park Service wouldn't approve changes that didn't still leave the space half open.

"The open office layout is pretty much the only use acceptable to SHPO and NPS," Frizlen had written in his application to the city for an adaptive reuse permit. "The project has incurred substantial financial hardship for the inability to lease the space."

Plans had called for using various partitions and low walls to divide the space into a conference room near the existing stage, four offices, a break room with two tables, bathrooms and multiple cubicles in a "bullpen" area lining the sides of the auditorium. But that would have required a zoning change since the building is otherwise residential, so Frizlen said Friday that he had pulled back from that plan.

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