The Buffalo News
Old buildings at 4 locations would be razed to make way for development
It’s going to be a demolition derby this week, as four property owners seek city permission to tear down all or portions of the former American Axle plant, the former Schoellkopf Ice House, a former North Buffalo synagogue-turned-church and a Jefferson Avenue dry cleaner as part of planned redevelopment projects.
Rocco J. DelGrosso, who owns the Faith of the Good Shepherd Chapel at 1235-1237 Hertel Ave., wants to turn the 63-year-old religious building into a new residential apartment building, with nine luxury units and retail space.
He is seeking approval to demolish the westernmost annex portion of the building, while also removing the front stairs and any other floor levels or interior walls that may be needed as part of the conversion.
However, “the building is not expected to be torn down completely,” DelGrosso wrote in an Aug. 28 email to Chris Hawley, a city planner who works with the Preservation Board.
Designed by architect Jack Kushin, the tan-brick, blockshaped building was constructed in 1955 as the new home of the B’rith Israel Anshe Ames Synagogue, which was formed in 1947 from the merger of the B’rith Israel and Anshe Ames synagogues on Hickory Street. The building still has a giant Star of David inside a circle engraved on the front facade, above two tablets of the Ten Commandments, flanked by a pair of engraved candelabras.
On the East Side, Jon Williams’ Ontario Specialty Contracting plans to take down a former one-story warehouse addition to the former American Axle plant at 1001 East Delavan Ave., as part of a larger project involving entry and exit from the sprawling site, according to a letter to Hawley from Alen Trpevski, senior project manager at OSC.
Built in the 1960s, the 8,000-square-foot blue corrugated-metal warehouse was used to house air handling equipment both on the roof and inside the building for other parts of the complex that were already demolished.
American Axle closed the plant in 2007, laying off 650 workers. OSC bought the 70acre former manufacturing property in October 2008 for $1.23 million, with plans to redevelop it for future industrial or commercial use. The company spent two years cleaning it up and clearing structures that could not be reused, and split out a small 2.65-acre parcel a year ago for a Superfund cleanup. It now houses nearly a dozen tenants, including a division of OSC and a related company that makes electric battery-powered heavy construction equipment.
In a separate project, Williams and OSC are also seeking to demolish the remaining portion of the former Schoellkopf Aniline & Chemical Co. Ice House at 229 Elk St. That’s part of his $4.2 million conversion of that 21.7-acre property into a new mixed-use complex with office, residential and industrial space that will include OSC’s new corporate headquarters.
Williams already demolished part of the Ice House structure last year because of concerns about its stability, and intended to renovate the two vacant and deteriorating
buildings that are still standing. Besides the Ice House building, the site at the corner of Elk and Lee streets also includes the 26,142-square-foot Power House building and a two-story Connector Building from the 1940s or 1950s.
But the National Park Service in May rejected Williams’ application for 20 percent federal historic tax credits, citing the initial demolition that “markedly diminishes the historic appearance and character of the property,” according to a letter from the agency. So now the firm wants to take down the Connector Building as well, which needs extensive and costly repairs that “cannot be done cost effectively,” and will focus only on the four-story Power House, OSC told the Preservation Board.
Finally, developers Nick Sinatra and David Pawlik are targeting a nondescript one-story block building at 1200 Jefferson Ave. that formerly housed a dry cleaner. According to their application to the Preservation Board, the steel-frame manufacturing property “is in significant disrepair” and “has little architectural value,” although it dates to the 1940s.
Instead, Sinatra & Co. Real Estate and Pawlik’s Creative Structure Services are planning to construct a three-story, 40,000-square-foot nonprofit office “hub,” aimed at two organizations in particular that Pawlik would not yet identify because talks are not yet final. He said more details would be forthcoming in a few weeks.
The nonprofit hub would also replace the original concept for the site, in which the two developers were teaming up with Dr. Gregory Daniel’s Nidus Development to create a new “medical mall” to serve the area community.
The $4.5 million project would combine primary, pediatric, obstetric and other specialty medical practices with services such as behavioral care, nutrition and wellness.
But the project grew too large for the site as discussions about it continued and other potential participants expressed interest in being part of it. So Sinatra and Daniel are now exploring other potential locations.
The Preservation Board meets at 3 p.m. on Thursday, on the ninth floor of City Hall.