Old railroad warehouse being turned into apartments, commercial space

Dec 21, 2016

Another forlorn Buffalo building - an unusual structure - will likely be bursting with residents early in 2018.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

Multi-story, nearly abandoned buildings are a familiar part of local development in recent years. What developers Jason Yots and Karl Frizlen want to redevelop is a building that is 700 feet long and 40 feet high.

It is an old railroad freight transfer warehouse on Tonawanda Street, backing onto an active Amtrak line. Frizlen said the plan is to use that 40-feet height and a basically sound structure to build 37 loft-style apartments that take advantage of 40-foot-tall ceilings and 2,000 square feet of commercial space.

"We are hoping to get historic tax credits, so the building that basically looks like this right now," he said. "This is a side elevation, a rear elevation actually, and the building once we're done with this will be like this. It's a pretty extensive restoration of a building that's in bad shape right now, really bad shape."

The $6.5 million project is aimed at professionals and students, perhaps affiliated with nearby Buffalo State College, and enough parking spaces for most apartment dwellers to have two cars. Units would be market rate, running to perhaps $1,200 a month for the 1,100 square foot apartments.

Councilmember Joe Golombek says developers met with community groups.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

"Lots of questions, very few concerns," he said. "The neighborhood is, overall, I would say vehemently in support of this plan and we're hoping that it would be approved and we would be able to move forward. I've already been in discussions with the Department of Public Works about infrastructure on the street and so we're hoping to move forward as quickly as possible."

To meet historic preservation tax credit rules, by the time the project is done, the street side of the building will look much like the rail freight house did when it opened in 1902.