Savarino Companies

Plan Submitted for 'Freight House Landing' Along Buffalo River

Buffalo Rising


Freight House Landing 441 Ohio Street, LLC, a development partnership made up of contractor/developer Sam Savarino and FFZ Holdings has submitted revised plans to construct a mixed-use building on the site of the Erie Freight House along the Buffalo River.  Savarino Companies has been retained to develop, finance, construct and manage the project.  This past Friday Savarino submitted an application to the City of Buffalo for planning approval which will begin the process of getting the project reviewed and approved by the both the Planning Board and the City Preservation Board.

Freight House Landing will be a mixed use facility providing office space and up to 78 market-rate apartments along the Buffalo River and the soon to be improved Ohio Street Parkway. The five-story building will feature secured ground floor parking, a small amount of first level commercial office space, a mix of 900 sq.ft. 1-bedroom units and 1,800 sq.ft. 2-bedroom units, high-end amenities, passive greenspace on the water's edge, rooftop patios and gardens, floating boat docks for new river access and secure storage for recreational water vessels.

While the size and height of the structure has not changed the design has changed as the result of public input and suggestions. The biggest change may be the location of the building. Where once it was going to be situated atop the existing footprint of the former Erie Freight House the building is now located 25' from the edge of the water. The iconic waterside foundation wall of the Freight House will remain and be used as a retaining wall for a passive green area between the building and the River.

The site layout has been modified to complement the public improvements planned for Ohio Street, with the main entrance now on what will be an extension of South Street and opposite the entrance to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation public park which will be constructed next door. Instead of 48 two-bedroom units the complex will feature 62 one-bedroom living units and 16 two bedroom units. Many of the units will face Ohio Street which is also different from the original design. Also added is a "green" roof system featuring rooftop garden areas and patios and "green" exterior walls designed to accept climbing indigenous plants.

The project architect, Chaintreul Jensen Stark Architects (CJS), has carefully incorporated district elements and history into the new design. The concrete stairtowers are reminiscent of the grain elevators along the River. The tensile rooftop shading structures are a metaphor for boat sails. The balconies, detailing, and railings respect nautical design.

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper (BNR) is part of the project team and their influence is evident. Green roof gardens and permeable asphalt pavement and walks effectively reduce the footprint of the building to collect and cleanse stormwater before it enters the River. There are also floating docks for tenants as well as a passive kayak/boat launch area and on site storage for small watercraft. Some of the existing piers from the former wharf will remain in place for the benefit of River fauna. The landscaping, which will be designed by BNR, will feature local indigenous species. Exterior building walls will be designed to allow for plant growth on them.

The living units will include features like floor to ceiling glass exterior walls with ample views from each room, sliding glass exterior doors with plant balconies, semi private elevator access to each unit, rooftop patio areas, jacuzzi tubs, glass/tile showers, and washer/dryer. Tenants will have the option of ownership should the building convert to a condominium project later.

441 Ohio Street LLC purchased the Erie Freight House property in March 2012 from Great Lakes Fibres Corp.  The circa-1868 building is a two-story heavy timber frame structure with 550 feet of Buffalo River frontage.  The exterior of the Erie Freight House that used to be wood is now clad in rusted metal siding.  The building was nominated and approved as a local landmark in 2012.

Both the interior and exterior of the building are in rough shape.  The center third of the building  already collapsed. A third of the building had its iconic basilica roof framing removed after its period of historical significance. The remaining third is of dubious structural integrity according to two engineering reviews commissioned by Savarino. This area has been gutted with most of the first and second floor removed. The City cited Great Lakes Paper Fibres for 15 building and fire code violations in mid-2011 after a partial collapse of the structure and the City and has been pressuring the current owners to complete a reuse plan for the property.

In 2012 CJS had previously studied all reasonable uses for the site including rehabilitation of the existing building. Rehabilitation was deemed not to be feasible because of the deterioration of the structure and the fact that a property would not allow for minimum parking requirements.  Tredo Engineers was engaged to provide an independent third party engineering analysis of the structural condition of the building. Recently the project team has reviewed options with NYS SHPO which has confirmed a partial reuse of but a third of the building, which was deemed to be the only reasonable options for rehabilitation, would not be eligible for Historic Tax Credits.

Savarino's planning submission indicates that they have engaged preservation specialist Kerry Traynor of KTA Preservation Specialties and Preservation to catalog/photo archive the structure, conduct research and record the features and history of the property. Kerry Traynor authored the landmark application for the property on behalf of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. KTA will oversee deconstruction of the building and the salvage of any usable remnants of the structure. KTA, along with Preservation Buffalo Niagara, will provide recommendations for reuse of the building's elements that respect the property's history
and allow them to be suitably repurposed for a second life.

In addition to working with Empire State Development Corporation, Ohio Street improvement planners, preservationists, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the development team has taken efforts to keep public officials and the neighboring community engaged in the plans. Savarino hosted a community meeting on February 25th at the Old First Ward Community Center to present its plans for the site. The general consensus of the attendees was supportive of this new investment.  South District Councilman Christopher Scanlon and State Senator Timothy Kennedy have formally indicated support for the project.

Uniquely situated on the Buffalo rRver, this privately financed $18,000,000 project supports and benefits from area investments such as Riverfest Park and the planned Waterfront Lodge, Father Conway Park, Canalside, Cobblestone District, the new Rowing Club, Silo City, Outer Harbor recreational amenities, and more.

Pending approvals the project could begin later this year and be completed within 12 months.



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