Savarino Companies

$15M Apartment Project Eyed on Ohio Street

Business First


The development tandem of FFZ Holdings and Savarino Cos. have decided to move ahead with an upscale, market-rate apartment building on the site of the former Erie Freight House, a South Buffalo and Buffalo River landmark.

City officials, in the next few weeks, are expected to begin their review process of the proposed $15 million project. FFZ and Savarino's decision to move forward with the project comes just days after they announced plans to begin a $35 million restoration of a century-old F.N.Burt Co. warehouse at 500 Seneca St.

The project is one of the first along the Ohio Street corridor in the City's First Ward and may lead the way for other, private sector-driven developments.

FFZ and Savarino acquired the former Erie Freight House in March from Great Lakes Paper Fibres Corp., paying $225,000, according to documents filed in the Erie County Clerk's Office.

Their decision to advance the project comes as City officials are prepping for an $11 million makeover of Ohio Street between downtown Buffalo and the Outer Harbor. The industrial-heavy street will be transformed into a more pedestrian and vehicle-friendly boulevard lined with historic lights and new plantings.

"The prospects of doing something on Ohio Street are much brighter today than they were a year ago," said Sam Savarino, Savarino Cos. President and founder.

The Erie Freight House, located at the intersection of Ohio and South Streets and one block away from Father Conway Park, goes back 150 years and was designated a local historic landmark earlier this year.

However, independent engineering studies found that the building's historic integrity was compromised by a series of renovations made during the past century. Additionally, it was determined the building is not structurally sound. Restoring it to its original condition was not feasible from an engineering and financial standpoint.

Savarino said his development group will maintain the building's foundation but construct the five-story apartment building where the freight house stands.

"I would have liked to save the (original) building, but it was too far gone," Savarino said.

Undamaged timber framing from the building will be saved for future projects, Savarino said.

Savarino has a deep resume of tackling tough historic restoration projects and bringing them back to life. One of those projects is the White Brothers Livery on the lower west side that Savarino saved from the wrecker's ball and is currently being restored for a low-to-moderate income housing site.

Savarino said the project, dubbed the Buffalo River Lofts, will feature 48 apartments - each with a view of the Buffalo River. The apartments will average 1,900-square-feet and feature two bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a balcony overlooking the river.

Approximately 75 enclosed parking spaces will be included. Tenant gardens will also be included.

The Buffalo firm of Chantreuil Jensen Stark has been retained as the project architect.

The developers are also planning to build a wharf along the water's edge that will offer public access to the Buffalo River.

James Fink


Return to news