Savarino Companies

Seneca Street Project to Help Bridge Larkin District & Downtown

Buffalo Rising


Savarino Companies and FFZ Holdings have further refined their plans for the renovation of the former F.N. Burt Company plant at 500 Seneca Street. The vacant industrial complex at the edge of the Larkin District will be converted into a mix of offices and cultural and business incubator space. Revised plans include more subtle balconies for office tenants, an amazing sign on the southwest corner of the building, and enclosed parking.

The primary entrance to the complex will be located on the western end of the building closest to downtown. It will feature a three-story lobby. There will be two courtyards in the building. One at the eastern end of the block will span all six floors and be open air. It will be an amenity for the building's tenants and help bring additional natural light into the building's office floors. A second courtyard on the western end of the block will be enclosed and run from the third to the sixth floor (below). A cafeteria is planned for the third floor with seating available in the atrium.

Floors will be large, ideal for back-office or tech companies desiring offices on one or just a few floors. Floor sizes range from 54,600 sq.ft. on the second floor to 14,250 sq.ft. on the sixth. The first floor will contain 48,900 sq.ft. and floors three through five will each have 45,600 sq.ft.

Offices will feature loft-style finishes with large exterior windows. Balconies are planned for the western façade facing downtown and can be added elsewhere if tenants desire them. Architectural firm Chaintreuil Jensen Stark is designing the project.

Savarino Companies president and chief executive officer Sam Savarino says the project will not be geared towards luring tenants out of the central business district. Rather, he says that like the nearby Larkin District office buildings, 500 seneca's large floor plates, proximity to downtown and the I-190, and free parking will attract firms that may otherwise locate in the suburbs.

Savarino is confident the project will be successful and will begin work even though no tenants have signed on as of yet.

"We've had some pretty good discussions with potential tenants," says Savarino. "We will be starting on spec and have space available six months after construction starts."

The F.N. Burt company, a paper box manufacturer, constructed the complex as a series of buildings between 1901 and 1927. It is highly visible from the I-190 and occupies nearly the full block bound by Myrtle Avenue and Hamburg, Spring and Seneca Streets.

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 first purchased, Savarino thought the iconic brick building with wood floors and columns at the corner of Seneca and Hamburg Streets would need to be demolished due to its poor condition. The developers were urged to utilize historic preservation tax credits to make reuse of this portion of the complex feasible.

"We went back and recalibrated," says savarino. "It made sense economically to save. It's marginal, but we will be able to save it. We'll be in there shoring up that section of the properaty over the coming weeks. I don't think it would last another winter without some help."

The development team is also buying 550 Seneca Street. That building, across Hamburg Street from the F.N. Burt complex is currently under contract. Plans call for reusing that building for parking for 148 cars.
There will also be a surface parking lot along Myrtle Avenue, a small lot near the front entrance, and a large lot between Seneca and Exchange Streets. Plans for that lot are contingent on finalizing an agreement with graphic controls and the City that control the parcel. Savarino Companies and FFZ Holdings would enter into a long-term lease for the land with the City.

The developers will present their plans to the community prior to heading to the Buffalo Planning Board for approvals. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 16 at the Old First Ward Community Center. It will be held from 6 until 8 pm.

Work on the project is expected to begin next spring, but could start sooner if an anchor signs on before then. Tenants could be taking occupancy seven months after construction starts.

Get connected: Julia Spitz, Savarino Cos, 716.332.5959



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