Savarino Companies

Architecture and Engineering Firm Moves to Downtown Buffalo from the Suburbs

The Buffalo News

7/15/2008

A veteran Amherst architectural/ engineering firm with some 70 employees is downtown bound.

Watts Architecture & Engineering PC is finalizing plans to move from Main Street in Eggertsville to a newly- developed, mixed-use building at Mississippi and Perry streets in Buffalo's Cobblestone District.

"We've grown out of current space, and looking to the future, we have to give ourselves enough room to accommodate continued growth," said firm founder Edward O. Watts.

The Watts firm will take all of the third floor and a portion of the second floor in the former Benlin Distribution Services warehouse, at 95 Perry St. Buffalo's Savarino Cos. and Avalon Development Corp. are nearing completion of a $12 million effort to convert the five-story structure to a mix of office, residential and retail space.

Watts opened his business in 1986 as a one-man operation on North Forest Road in Amherst, relocating to the former Eggertsville Hose Co. Fire Hall on Main Street with some 40 staffers in 1996. That company-owned 15,000-square-foot building is no longer big enough, leading Watts to lease 20,000 square feet of space in the Cobblestone District building.

"We looked at several places, but the city site turned out to be the most attractive location. We like the developer's vision for the building and the neighborhood," Watts said.

The firm is expected to make its move by late 2008 or early 2009.

Watts Architecture has earned numerous awards for its business success and professional excellence. Last year, the U. S. Small Business Administration's Buffalo office named the firms founder "Small Business Champion of the Year." He earned a similar award from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership in 2006.
In 1995, Watts was named the SBA's "Minority Small Business Person of the Year."

Watts Architecture, which also operates a satellite office in Alexandria, VA., plans to put its current home at 3826 Main St. up for sale.

Earlier this year, Empire State Development Corp. signed on to occupy the building's top two floors and will move into the space by the beginning of September. A Canadian software design company, Winsoft, will open a 1,500-square-foot office on the first floor.

"With Watts coming in we're fresh out of office space and are getting close to finishing up the entire block," said project principal Sam Savarino, whose company has redeveloped the one-block stretch of Mississippi Street, between South Park Avenue and Perry Street.

"Just three years ago, it was all sitting empty. Now we'll have close to 300 people working down there, people living there and four restaurants open," Savarino said.

Watts Architecture's space needs will cause the developer to reconfigure what had been planned as a full floor of luxury apartments. There will now be five, two-bedroom units, instead of a mix of eight, one-and two-bedroom apartments.

Construction of the residential space will start shortly. Savarino continues to seek an operator for a 5,000- square-foot restaurant on the building's ground floor.

Benchwarmer's Sports Bar & Grill is expected to open by the end of the month at 30 Mississippi St., next to W. J. Morrissey's, an Irish pubthemed restaurant bar, in what was formerly a food terminal.

Savarino has also completely leased a four-story former industrial building at 26 Mississippi St., the first structure his group renovated. The newest tenant there is Clark Patterson Lee Design Professionals, an architectural firm.

The Rochester-based firm relocated its local office from Cheektowaga to the Cobblestone District in February with six staffers. Clark Patterson Lee also has offices in Olean, Binghampton, Albany, Middletown and Newburgh, as well as sites in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

by Sharon Linstedt



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