Revisiting the Tower

It’s been a lonely two years for the corner of Colvin and Tacoma.

In that time we’ve seen a fire rage through the roof of the old church, a near full demolition, development plans announced, questions asked, hopes raised, and of course, skepticism.

In that time we’ve done a lot of waiting too. But as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Plans for the development have changed since 2013 but the plan to develop hasn’t.

I had a chance to chat with owner Sam DeFranks a few weeks back. As one of the closest neighbors to the property I have a very vested interest in what goes down there so I try and track him down every few months. Despite me being the least of his worries (maybe because I’m one of his biggest supporters), he always obliges.

He talked about how he’s been fielding many questions, concerns and recommendations from residents near and far. He shared what makes this so much of a process and we mutually griped about what the past two winters have done to our souls and to stall the project timelines.

Sam was also very forthcoming in discussing the project itself. They’ve moved onto a new architect and are modifying the layout and design of the complex. It’s likely the initial plan for 40 units will drop to 27 or 28, allowing for more square footage per unit, larger parking spaces, and less congestion around entry and egress. If all goes well, approvals are received and contracts get signed, we could see work beginning in the next month or two.

To me, it’s very clear that Sam is dead set on getting this project right, and making the Bell Tower Lofts (assuming that will remain the name) a highly sought after residential space.

I remain excited and optimistic. Can’t wait to see that first shovel in the ground!

  

 

Advertisements

Saved by the Bell (Tower)

This was the scene at 375 Colvin Ave. back in March.

Not depicted in this video was the anguish on the part of the nearby residents. Buffalo neighbors were reverting back to “yesterday’s mindset” and began worrying about what could become of the property. Fears loomed that the land would remain an empty construction site for years to come or a gas station or convenient store would set up shop on the prominent corner that once served as a community gathering place.

None of those scenarios would have been good for any of us, so I guess there was reason for concern. But this is the new Buffalo, and this blog is, if nothing else, positive and optimistic. So when I heard that the owner of the company that was demolishing the church bought the property and actually had plans for it, I wasn’t pessimistic, I was ecstatic.

Sam DeFranks, owner of Apollo Dismantling Services and former North Buffalo resident, said he fell in love with the property, especially the towering steeple that can be seen from blocks away. So much that he decided to leave the tower standing and began working on a way to incorporate it into his plan for a high end apartment complex.

Here’s what he came up with:

OVERVIEW 1

TACOMA AND COLVIN 1

parking ebtry

Pretty awesome if you ask me. Actually, no. Not just pretty awesome. Fricken’ incredible!

At a community meeting on September 18th, hosted by Mr. DeFranks, he shared the above renderings, provided details of the project and fielded questions from the residents. Some highlights include:

  • 14 one bedroom, 26 two bedroom units
  • One dedicated parking space per unit along with bike storage
  • The tower is restored and incorporated into the design
  • Central, second level courtyard area for residents
  • Garbage facilities are enclosed/concealed
  • Future option to convert to condos

CourtyardTo my delight (and I’m sure to Mr. DeFranks’), there was just overwhelming support for this project. Coupling this great news with free pizza made this one of the best community meetings I’ve been a part of.

Minor requests that the parking lot be gated and the premises contain ample foliage were welcomed by Mr. DeFranks, and no concern was left on the table. He expects the rest of the city and construction “paperwork” to take them into the winter months and he hopes to break ground on the tentatively named “Bell Tower Lofts” in early spring. Time to complete would be about a year.

This project along with the proposal for St. Margaret’s School could bring upwards of 100 more people living in the heart of the Hertel Avenue district, all while restoring the vitality of such prominent landmarks.  Yet another reason to love what’s going on in North Buffalo!