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From institute to apartments?

Banker-turned-developer Paul Kolkmeyer is looking at another building conversion project, this time in North Buffalo across the street from one of Rocco Termini’s projects.

Kolkmeyer, the former CEO of First Niagara Financial Group who’s turned his attention to real estate development since leaving the bank in 2006, is considering turning a former office building at 1807 Elmwood Ave. into apartments. The 48,000-square-foot detached row building sits on 2.2 acres adjacent to the Valu Home Center store and plaza at 1841 Elmwood.

Originally the corporate headquarters for American Radiator, which later became American Standard, the two-story building still carries the name Institute for Thermal Research engraved in the brick, but looks more like a traditional school or academic institute.

Kolkmeyer would not discuss his plans, saying it’s premature since he and his partners are still conducting due diligence on the building and “have not yet committed to move forward.”

But such a project would take advantage of renewed development activity in that area of the city, spurred in part by Termini. The building Kolkmeyer is eying is located across the street from the 90,000-square-foot former FWS Furniture store at 1738 Elmwood, which Termini is converting into the Foundry Lofts.

That $23 million project calls for a mixture of commercial, retail, residential and hotel space, with a 21-room boutique hotel and banquet facility to be operated by William Koessler’s Acqua Restaurant. It will also house one- and two-bedroom apartments, a distillery and restaurant, a yoga business, technology company Utilant and 8,000 square feet of office space for Buffalo Spree magazine.

Also nearby, at 316 Grote St., Termini is spending $6.72 million to turn the two-story former Houk Wire Wheel building into a mixture of residential and commercial space called Houk Lofts. The 28,160-square-foot building will have 22 apartments, a tattoo parlor and a hair salon.

 

- Jonathan D. Epstein

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