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From lockup to fine living: Jemal plans historic renovation of police HQ

After decades booking and hosting prisoners, Buffalo's old police headquarters on Franklin Street will soon have an assortment of new residents – who actually chose to be there.

The former administration building for Buffalo's finest will soon be turned into 130 studio and one-bedroom apartments, under plans submitted by new owner Douglas Jemal to the Buffalo Preservation Board.

The Washington, D.C.-based developer – who also owns Seneca One tower – is planning a historic renovation of the 85-year-old building at 74 Franklin, transforming the 130,676-square-foot art-deco style building into 92 studio and 38 one-bedroom apartments across the four floors – plus a preserved jail-cell block that will be restored and highlighted. The units will average 456 square feet and 747 square feet in size, respectively.

Plans by architects from Antunovich Associates call for a "complete exterior and interior renovation," under federal preservation standards, so that the project can qualify for lucrative state and federal historic tax credits, according to Carmina Wood Morris PC Associate Paul R. Lang, who is working with Antunovich on the tax credits.

The steel-frame building is one of the most prominent structures in downtown Buffalo, with its rounded front facade curving around Franklin and Church streets, architectural features like stone caps and brick pilasters, and its entry columns protruding above the main roofline.

The single-phase project will restore the outside of the building. That includes restoring, cleaning and repointing the exterior masonry, or replacing it where it can't be reused, while maintaining existing windows and restoring some that had been sealed. A courtyard roof will also be removed.

Inside, Jemal will preserve existing entrances, corridors and other features that define the building's historic character, as well as details like flat plaster walls and ceilings, glazed tile wall finishes and terra cotta, handrails and guardrails in stairways, historic door and window mouldings, radiators, transoms and terrazzo flooring. However, the building's mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire-protection systems will be upgraded, Lang said.

Additionally, the parking lot off Franklin will be reconfigured for use by residents, with 84 additional parking spaces in the basement and part of the first floor that can be accessed from the parking lot and Church Street. In all, there will be 30,488 square feet of parking and 29,828 square feet of amenities or common area, such as a work-sharing space on the fourth floor.

Jemal does plan one significant alteration. The developer intends to construct a new two-story addition of 5,000 square feet at the rear of the building, on top of the existing two-story extension between the two four-story wings on either side.

That will essentially square off the shape, but the addition will be recessed from the historic facade, and will not be higher than the existing parapet, to minimize its appearance to pedestrians. It also will be covered with contemporary metal and glazed panels to set it apart. Workers will seek to minimize demolition where the addition meets the existing building "to ensure as little disruption of historic fabric as possible," Lang added.

Wendel Architects and Engineers and Trautman Associates are also working with Antunovich on design and engineering, while Buffalo Construction will be the general contractor.

Jemal is seeking Preservation Board approval of a certificate of restoration, to enable the tax credit application, which is already underway. The board will consider the request at 3 p.m. Feb. 20. The project would still require Planning Board approval.

The project comes as Jemal is still in the thick of his $120 million redevelopment of Seneca One, Buffalo's tallest building at 38 stories and 1.2 million square feet of space. That renovation has already yielded 115 apartments, two black-clad brick retail buildings, two new stone clubhouses, a new driveway entrance, and a significantly expanded and redesigned lower level along Pearl, Washington and Exchange streets.

Jemal already landed M&T Bank Corp. as the building's new anchor tenant, with a technology hub that will eventually host 1,500 employees, and also attracted technology business competition and incubator 43North. He is working on securing additional leases, including with a potential brewery.

M&T Bank offers preview of 'tech hub' in Seneca One tower

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