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Historic Broadway complex on East Side targeted for redevelopment

The owner of a historic complex of buildings on Broadway is planning a historic renovation and reuse of the property that will also include a new structure to bring more residential, retail and office space to the Willert Park neighborhood of Buffalo's East Side.

Peyton Barlow Co., which owns the former Pollack & Blakemore furniture store at 574 Broadway, wants to renovate and restore the 30,000-square-foot existing structure, which it will also use as its new headquarters. Plans by Ashwood Architectural also call for a new 3,570-square-foot building with three floors on a vacant lot at 584 Broadway – between the existing structures – and using a city-owned lot at 588 Broadway as parking for building tenants.

The historic building features a mansard roof, ornate cornice, wood and brick corbels, and round top windows – some of which are missing or damaged and will have to be replaced, based on old pictures. Located on 0.55 acres at Madison Street, just east of Jefferson Avenue, the complex consists of two three-story buildings and a two-story structure on the eastern end that was an old wooden storefront dating to 1850 "that we can't wait to bring back," said Peyton Barlow President Mike Morga.

"It's a nice old building. I like it," Morga said. "The exterior of the building will most certainly be renovated. It's missing a lot of the detail that it once had."

Peyton Barlow's plans for the interior are still in flux, and may depend on whether the firm decides to use state and federal historic tax credits to offset the anticipated $4.5 million cost, Morga said. The firm already had all three existing buildings designated as historic, and received initial approval by the State Historic Preservation Office and National Park Service to qualify, but the renovation requirements would be much more stringent under the credit program.

"It's a pretty heavy lift, even though the tax credits will offset," he said. But "no matter what happens, we're in the business to do historic restoration."

Current plans call for three townhouse-type units on the Madison side of the building, with two floors for each, said Ashwood architect Jason Bennett. Two would be residences, while the third would be the firm's office. The third floor might also have a corner apartment. On the Broadway side of the building, the first two floors would be commercial, with office or retail space, plus one to two more apartments on the third floor, Bennett added.

In all, he said, there will be three or four apartments, two or three retail spaces and two or three office suites. The firm is also seeking to acquire the property at 588 Broadway from the city.

Peyton Barlow is a construction management and general contracting firm, with a specialization in historic renovation and adaptive reuse projects. Its previous projects have included First Amherst Development's Elk Street Terminal and Granite Works, as well as a half-dozen of Kissling Interests' properties, the Mansion on Delaware renovation, and two homes on Johnson Park.

"We did some arguably pioneering efforts in Buffalo," Morga said. "We're familiar with this kind of work."

While the firm has handled work similar to the Broadway project for its clients, Morga said it has no intention of getting into that business as a competitor. Rather, he views this as a one-time effort to create a new home for the firm, which will occupy the office space at the renovated facility while using the rear of one of the buildings as its shop and storage area. The company is currently located in leased space at 360 Delaware Ave., at the corner of Tupper Street in downtown Buffalo.

"After paying rent for so many years, we're looking to have something of our own ... and also to participate more directly in this renaissance, especially on the East Side," Morga said. "There's so much developable land on the East Side of Buffalo, it seems a natural progression of this renaissance that we're having."

Morga said he stumbled upon the property when he saw a "for sale" sign on it while driving down Broadway. He called to inquire, and learned it had been sold at the city's foreclosure auction two years earlier for $14,000. He paid $50,000 for it. "It was just timing," he said. "All the buildings are in pretty rough shape."

The project requires four variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals for the front yard, driveway, parking location and height of the ground floor. That would permit the infill building to "continue with the character of the street front retail/business facade typical of Buffalo while adding some modern character," according to the company's application to the city.

Changing the height and front angle of the new building to meet the code would "take away from the design character and feel of creating a new infill building between old existing buildings," the application continued.

"This construction and renovation will bring life back to this neighborhood as this site has been vacant and dilapidated for many years," the company wrote.

The Zoning Board will consider the request at 2 p.m Sept. 18 at 901 City Hall.

The property is located in an area that is seeing renewed attention from developers and nonprofits – including the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers' senior housing complex on Adams Street, HELP USA's transitional housing projects on Broadway, People Inc.'s two-building housing project on Jefferson Avenue and several church expansions. The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. is also investing more than $120 million in a new economic development hub at the Northland Corridor.

Additionally, developers Stuart Alexander and SCG Development are spending $50 million to convert the vacant former Buffalo Forge Manufacturing Co. plant at 490 Broadway into a new residential community called The Forge on Broadway, with 158 affordable apartments and retail space, and eventually townhouses and single-family homes as well. Nick Sinatra and David Pawlik are constructing a new three-story office complex on Jefferson. And Cedarland Development – owned by Dr. Fadi Dagher – owns the Eckhardt Building, the former Kmart and a third building farther east on Broadway.

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