Buffalo Planning Board approves lower Main Street apartment project

Buffalo Planning Board approves lower Main Street apartment project


Buffalo city planners on Tuesday gave the green light to Paul Kolkmeyer’s proposal to convert a downtown office building on Main Street into residential apartments, as the developer hopes to tap into the renewed interest in downtown living.

The City Planning Board backed the redevelopment of the Stanton Building at 251 Main into 36 apartments and a single 1,700-square-foot first-floor office suite to house Kolkmeyer’s real estate firm, Priam Enterprises LLC, which will relocate from Williamsville.

The five-story building will have eight apartments on the first floor and mezzanine level – including four with high ceilings and upper loft levels in the front of the building, and four on two different elevations in the rear – and seven on each of the other four floors. There will be six two-bedroom apartments, while the rest will have one bedroom each. Rents will range from $1,000 to $1,300 per month.

The project received approval last week from the city Preservation Board, as Kolkmeyer and his team plan to install 54 new windows on the north side of the 44,200-square-foot building, which is now a solid wall facing a parking lot on Swan Street. The team will begin seeking construction bids, while starting work on asbestos abatement and internal demolition over the next six weeks. Final costs are still being determined.

The conversion of the Stanton is part of Kolkmeyer’s larger $48 million purchase and redevelopment of five downtown office structures into a mixture of office space, apartments, a banquet facility and a small boutique hotel. Kolkmeyer, a former accountant and banker, acquired the buildings for $11.7 million late last year from longtime owner David Sweet, who retired from real estate at age 85 after decades of ownership.

The goal is to reinvigorate historic office buildings that – while well-maintained by Sweet – were not completely occupied. Besides the Stanton, Kolkmeyer bought the Main Seneca Building at 237 Main, the Roblin Building at 241 Main, the Main-Court Building at 438 Main and the Rand Building at 14 Lafayette Square. The Stanton was empty, while Roblin is 40 percent occupied and Main Seneca is 72 percent occupied.

“We think we’ve got an excellent location, particularly for people who work by the Main Street corridor or the Medical Campus,” Kolkmeyer said. “People can stand inside our building and wait for Metro Rail and they’re off to work. It’s also beneficial to the city because the city has got an issue with regard to all the cars coming into the city. It fits with some of the long-term plans.”

Plans for the other buildings are still in the works. For Main Seneca – which Kolkmeyer wants to rebrand back to its old name, the Marine Trust Building – the developer intends to convert the top five floors of the 16-story building into condominiums, while floors 4 through 11 would remain as commercial space.

The first floor would become a banquet center capable of serving 300 to 400 people, with a boutique hotel of 20 to 24 rooms on the third floor to house guests. Kolkmeyer is currently “talking to a couple of potential individuals who are interested in running” the banquet operation, while he said the hotel would also be open for business at other times. The second floor – really a small mezzanine of 2,500 square feet – could become a conference center or meeting room for use by the building’s residential or commercial tenants.

“We’re still working with our architects,” Kolkmeyer said. “We’re just starting to put the plan together for all of this. These are just our initial thoughts for what we want to see in the building.”

Meanwhile, the Roblin Building would remain commercial, but the two basement levels – one of which used to be the Glass Abbey restaurant – would become indoor parking for the condo tenants at Marine Trust next door. The other two buildings up the street would see less change, although Kolkmeyer is talking to tenants at Marine Trust about relocating to other buildings to open up the space for condo redevelopment there while eliminating empty space in the other facilities.

“We’re doing these projects one at a time,” Kolkmeyer said. “When we get the opportunity to get going on one of these projects, we’ll do it.”

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