Savarino Companies

New Plans for 500 Seneca Retain Historic Corner

Buffalo Rising


Savarino Companies and FFZ Holdings have spent the past year revising their plans for redeveloping a vacant industrial complex at 500 Seneca Street at the edge of the Larkin District. The new proposal calls for saving the unique, brick portion of the complex at the corner of Seneca and Hamburg Streets which originally was to be demolished.

That change is sure to please the preservation community which urged the developer to retain all of the multiple building complex. The brick buildings are the iconic sections of the former F.N. Burt Company plant, a manufacturer of small paper boxes. It was constructed as a series of buildings between 1901 and 1927.

"The demolition of the oldest, and most historically significant, portion of the structure is no longer contemplated," reports Sam Savarino, CEO of Savarino Companies. "That portion as well as the rest of the complex will be restored under SHPO [State Historic Preservation Office] guidelines and HTC's [Historic Preservation Tax Credits] are now being utilized." 

Savarino Companies is teaming with experienced investor, FFZ Holdings, LLC, to undertake the project. Chaintreuil Jensen Stark is project architect.

The developers purchased the vacant structure from New Era Cap Co. in March 2010. New Era moved out in 2004 when it consolidated its local manufacturing facilities at a plant in Derby.

When the project was first unveiled, the iconic portion fronting Hamburg Street was pegged to be demolished. Time and weather have taken a toll on the brick structures. Savarino says the brick portions of complex have wood floors, beams, columns and roof decking that have not held up well compared to the newer, solid masonry construction of the buildings on the west end of the property.

Shoring up and saving this section of the complex will be expensive and cannot economically be engineered to accommodate office space loads. Instead, this area will be space that will be priced below market rates for non-traditional users. Savarino envisions this space will be attractive for cultural organizations and start-up firms.

The balance of the building will be transformed into a mixed-use development featuring over 180,000 square feet of Class A office space. Offices will feature loft-style finishes, large exterior windows, balconies and expansive floorplates. Plans call for a multi-story interior atrium area, a rooftop garden, on site fitness center and café, and adjacent tenant parking.

"Flex space" that features exterior truck-dock and freight elevator access is also planned. This will provide tenants of 500 Seneca with direct access to low-cost, secure, and climate-controlled space for archive and document storage and/or equipment and supply storage and light assembly.

Earlier plans for fourteen apartments on the sixth floor have been dropped.

A timeline for the conversion has not been set, though the buildings will be "buttoned-up" for the winter. Savarino says there are "a lot of moving parts" including lining up new market and historic tax credits and securing tenants. He does have firms interested in taking space in the project and says the large floor plates, proximity to downtown and the I-190, and free parking will attract firms that may otherwise locate in the suburbs.



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