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Rochester developer plans historic renovation in Larkinville

A Rochester-based real estate developer, already engaged in a project on Buffalo's West Side, is ready to tackle a historic renovation in Larkinville.

Park Grove Realty is taking aim at a four-story warehouse on Exchange Street that it acquired earlier this year.

The Larkinville building, at 619 Exchange St., is a couple of blocks from the Larkin at Exchange Building and Larkin Square.

Tentative plans for the 99,600-square-foot brick-and-timber building call for studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, plus common areas for residents. The project will include a lobby, outside and underground parking, a club room and an exercise room.

The developer is working with Passero Associates as the architect for the historic rehabilitation project, and intends to maintain the building's industrial look. Constructed in 1904, with updates between 1915 and 1925, and originally designed by architect Louise Blanchard Bethune for the Iroquois Door Company, the building still features raised cut-stone foundations, large industrial windows and a brick facade that Park Grove calls "ideal for the look of the converted industrial lofts." It also includes old hardwood floors, three grade-level overhead doors and freight elevators, and a full basement.

The architect and developer plan to restore key features of the building, such as its historic vault and original walls, while mimicking the look of the windows with energy-efficient replacements.

The developer has not yet submitted site plans to the city for approval. However, work is expected to begin in the spring of next year.

This is the second development initiative in Buffalo for Park Grove, a three-year-old development firm that has mostly focused on multifamily residential, mixed-use and commercial projects in the Rochester area. The developer is already constructing a 10-story building on Niagara Street.

The firm was started by real estate veterans Andrew Crossed and Andrew Bodewes – former partners of Conifer Realty LLC. They left to form Park Grove in September 2015. Since then, its development and management projects have included apartments in Rochester, Elmira and Ithaca, and it's seeking to expand, with several development projects in Upstate New York.

The firm entered the Buffalo market last year when it won approval from the city for a 95-unit mixed-rate apartment building at 990 Niagara.

[Related: Can a posh apartment complex with affordable units work? This developer this so.]

The new project brings Park Grove to a part of town that has seen significant redevelopment activity, led by Howard and Leslie Zemsky's Larkin Development Group.

Envisioning a rebirth of the neighborhood, the couple and their partners already renovated several buildings, created Larkin Square, opened Hydraulic Hearth Restaurant and Brewery, and lured other new residents, businesses and eateries. They also brought food trucks, outdoor concerts and other social and entertainment activities back to the once-thriving historic commercial district.

Now they're pursuing additional new construction on several parcels, including a new Paula's Donuts store and their new five-story Mill Race Commons – with 70 apartments and 50,000 square feet of office space at 799 Seneca St.

The success of those efforts has attracted other developers to the area as well, including those from out of town, such as Indianapolis-based KCG Development, which transformed the former Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Warehouse into the AP Lofts at Larkinville.

Park Grove is the newest. Acting through PG Larkinville LLC, the firm paid $1.45 million in May to buy the Exchange Street site from M.U. Partners and the estate of Michael Ulin, according to documents filed with the Erie County Clerk's Office. The building has been occupied by KW Textiles, a sporting goods company that remains the sole tenant while they seek to relocate.

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