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Nick Sinatra wants tax breaks for Elmwood apartments

Nick Sinatra wants tax breaks for Elmwood apartments

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257 Elmwood-Walcott Apartments

This building at 257 Elmwood Ave. is being targeted for an adaptive-reuse project by Sinatra & Company Real Estate, for 12 apartments.

As Nick Sinatra continues to work with his partner on the enormous redevelopment of the former Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo campus, the developer is also setting his sights on a smaller apartment project a block away on Elmwood Avenue.

But he says he needs subsidies from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to get the job done.

Sinatra & Co. Real Estate wants to renovate a vacant "midcentury modern" building at 257 Elmwood, between Summer and North streets, into the Walcott Apartments, with 12 market-rate residential units in the four-story building. The one-bedroom units would range in size from 700 to 900 square feet each, with rents of $1,022 to $1,850.

The 12,500-square-foot project would have one unit reserved as an affordable apartment, aimed at a household earning 80% or below the area median income.

The redevelopment project would also include 500 square feet of light commercial space on the ground floor, while parking would be relegated to an existing rear lot to "help ignite walkability on this stretch of South Elmwood," the developer said in its ECIDA application for adaptive-reuse benefits.

The property is an empty former commercial office building that is assessed at $830,000. Renovation plans include new but historic-styled windows.

"It will be a substantial renovation down to the existing plasters and studs," with a "double-loaded corridor" on all four floors, Sinatra wrote in the application.

Sinatra is seeking $106,050 in sales tax breaks from the ECIDA, which will hold a public hearing on the request at 9 a.m. Aug. 23 at its 95 Perry St. offices. The project already has written support from Common Council  Member David Rivera, Sinatra noted.

The developer said it's been redeveloping two other big apartment complexes at the corners of Elmwood with Summer and North streets for the past three years., so "beautifying/activating this building will create jobs, residential density and create a more walkable neighborhood right before Allentown District."

The building was constructed in 1920, initially as apartments, but has been used mostly as office space for the last 50 years. It's been unoccupied for the last eight years.

"This commercial facility had been neglected since before Sinatra and Co. purchased the property, and is ripe for redevelopment into a mixed-use, mixed-income property," Sinatra wrote. "We strongly feel this building will support further residents looking to move into the area between the Elmwood Village and downtown."

Sinatra said it had been working on plans for the project in 2019 and the beginning of 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic hit just before the developer could submit the proposal to the city for review and approvals. Since then, though, construction costs have escalated significantly – generally 25% higher for all budgets, on top of a near-quadrupling of lumber prices.

The developer said it "uncovered a large amount of asbestos-containing material in the ceilings and floors," as well as in window flashings, parts of the roof, the basement, and first-floor tiles – all of which must be removed and remediated.

Finally, to qualify for historic tax credits, the project must follow guidelines set by the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Office, which requires duplicating the original "historic fabric" both inside and outside the building, using "more expensive products that are difficult to source," Sinatra wrote. The building is located in the Elmwood Historic District East.

"The ECIDA is essential to help bring this vacant building back to life," Sinatra said. Otherwise, Sinatra added, "a vacant building in the core of the Elmwood Village and Allentown district will remain vacant," as the project would not proceed.

Costs for the $3.345 million project include the $830,000 purchase price and $1.95 million for the renovation, plus $70,000 for infrastructure, $180,000 for furniture and fixtures and $315,000 for professional costs. The facility will employ one property manager, earning $50,000.

The project will be funded with $2.65 million in equity, along with $697,055 in historic tax credits. Sinatra will also seek property tax breaks through the city's 485-a program.

If approved, Sinatra hopes to start the project in early October, with completion and occupancy by the end of February 2022.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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