After getting a crash course on the city Planning Board process two weeks ago, businessman Joseph Carubba has won approval for his first big real estate project in Buffalo – a five-unit apartment building on Linwood Avenue.
Carubba, who bought a quarter-acre vacant lot at 295 Linwood from Jesse Hawker along with a set of previously approved project plans, can proceed with his proposal for a three-story building after the panel backed his modifications. Carubba said he plans to start bidding out the work, and hopes "to get it up as soon as possible."
Plans for the 34-foot-tall building call for two one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments, with a driveway leading to a paved back area with four garages. And the building's facade would still feature white brick and fiber-cement panel, with a green preweathered copper roof and red stone base.
"Every single element in the rendering that was approved in 2018 is exactly the same," architect John Lydon said.
The project had won city approval in 2018, prior to the property sale. But the former owner of Carubba Collision now intends to live in the first-floor unit, and wanted to expand it 20 feet to the rear for a larger kitchen and master-bedroom suite.
Instead of an open path, he will also create an enclosed glass breezeway extending from the building to the garage, with direct interior access from his apartment to his own parking space. And he will use a hydronic slab heating system on the driveway to melt any snow, with catch basins to take the water to the sewer.
Carubba had proposed a five-car garage, but switched back to four at the suggestion of the city Preservation Board last week. The garage is also now pushed back further – 18 feet, instead of eight feet, also at the insistence of the Preservation Board. And he made the breezeway transparent instead of solid.
Leslie Edmiston, from Linwood Preservation District & Friends, expressed concern about the revised plan, with the increase in paved surface.
"We are very appreciative that the new owner is keeping the front façade the same, but we are concerned about the loss of green space," she said.
Under the code, Carubba must replace at least two trees, either on the property or elsewhere in the city, possibly still in the Linwood district.
Carubba – who had owned and developed nine of Carubba Collision's 18 locations – was president of his family-owned collision shop company until it was acquired last March by Gerber Collision. He stayed on as regional vice president for New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, but has begun turning his attention toward real estate development as a side business..
The Linwood project is one of several new ventures in which Carubba is currently involved, but the first to receive municipal approval in Western New York. He's currently developing a mixed-use building in Durham, N.C., near Duke University, with 265 market-rate apartments that are under construction, with a completion targeted for 18 months.
He is also taking a major role in the proposed OnCore Buffalo project. That's a $30 million proposal led by OnCore Golf Technology CEO Keith Blakely and Buffalo RiverWorks co-founder Doug Swift to construct a new year-round sports, entertainment and hospitality venue on Ganson Street along the Buffalo River. Carubba will own the building and hotel, and will lease the sports facility to OnCore Golf.
In the City of Tonawanda, he is hoping to develop a series of mixed-use buildings on vacant land along both sides of the Erie Canal, including an 80-unit project with some retail and commercial space on Fillmore Avenue, next to the yacht club, and another project on Young Street, behind a Walgreen's Pharmacy.
"There's a lot of exciting stuff going on in the City of Tonawanda," he said. "It’s great to be part of that."
Both are still in preliminary development stages.