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Mystery road leads to questions for Louisiana Street project

You won't find Ottawa Street on any Buffalo road map, but the paper roadway could derail plans to turn the old barcalounger factory on Louisiana Street into offices and apartments.

Developers Karl Frizlen and partner Jason Yots of Common Bond Real Estate want to renovate the 175,000-square-foot former Barcalo Manufacturing Co. building at 175-245 Louisiana St. into 119 market-rate loft apartments and offices, with nearby parking.

But according to neighbors, the parking plan doesn't account for Ottawa Street, which can't be just sold or given away to a private developer.

Ottawa Street?

It's not on any map or even clearly visible from Google's satellite view. But don't tell that to Thomas Hopemacher.

"There is brick road underneath the Louisiana Street bridge to get to people’s houses. It's not there anymore, but it’s never been taken off the chart," he said, describing it now as a path. "I still use it every day."

Martin McCluskey knows about it, too. "That road goes right through here," he said. "It's always gone through here. I plow it and maintain it."

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

That was news to Frizlen.

"I'm not aware that there's a paper street existing," he told the Planning Board. "This didn't show up in any title search. There's no indication that there's a road there."

Yots agreed. "It's very strange, but we'll get to the bottom of it," he said.

Turns out, Yots said Tuesday, that the city "discontinued" Ottawa Street in 1879 and incorporated it into land owned by the Erie Railroad Co. The mystery road – which may now be little more than an easement – may actually lie just outside the property Frizlen and Yots are buying.

"It clearly needs to be resolved," said Board Vice Chairwoman Cynthia Schwartz.

That wasn't the only issue. Neighbors still are concerned about whether the project has adequate parking.

The $30 million adaptive reuse project will include 40,000 square feet of specialty commercial space for a restaurant and cafe, a laundromat and studio space for 15 to 20 artists. It also will include a 45-space indoor parking garage, along with two exterior parking lots with 92 more spaces on three adjacent properties to the north and south, for a total of 137.

Frizlen said more than 50 to 60 people attended a neighborhood meeting in January, where neighbors raised concerns about parking near the project.

"I think we addressed all the concerns they had," particularly around parking, he said, adding that the developers are now talking to the city about using the wide right-of-way along Louisiana to add another 50 spaces.

But the concerns linger.

"Parking is a huge consideration," said Dean Seneca, another local resident. "We want people to come into the neighborhood, but that's a big concern."

Planning Board members asked Frizlen and Yots to go back to the community again as a condition of approval.

A new neighborhood meeting has been scheduled at 6 p.m. May 21 at the Old First Ward Community Association.

Frizlen and Yots plan to spend $1.3 million on environmental remediation through the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program, including for removal of asbestos, lead paint and any other contaminants.

The developers are hoping to use more than $10 million in tax credits to not only pay for the rehab but also to keep rents to about 80% to 100% of the area median income. And Frizlen plans to move his own architecture, development and property management business to the new building.

The building – where barcaloungers once were made – will include a rooftop patio with views of the grain elevators. It also will have geothermal heating and cooling and rooftop solar panels.

The development duo hope to acquire the property in the next quarter, complete the financing by year end, and start work on the 18-month project, Yots said.

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