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Project Update: Allentown Lofts at 430 Virginia Street

The Buffalo Planning Board approved plans for a $2 million redevelopment of 430 Virginia Street in Allentown on Tuesday. Kissling Interests is planning ten live-work units for the building to be named “Allentown Lofts.” Eight units will be single-level and two will be duplexes. According to developer Anthony Kissling, the units will be “very New York City-like and by far the best lofts in town.”
Kissling purchased the 22,000 sq.ft., four-story building at the northeast corner of Park Street in October 2006. Constructed in 1924, the building at one time housed the National Casket Company. It most recently was owned by Yorktown Caskets Inc. based in York, Pennsylvania.

Exterior improvements include a new steel and glass entryway on the east elevation (rendering above), replacement of existing windows with aluminum-clad wood windows to match the original in size and design, and creating new and larger window openings in the basement. Enclosed parking will be available. Silvestri Architects P.C. designed the project.
The one and two-bedroom units will average 2,000 sq.ft. and include approximately 1,300 sq.ft. of open and flexible live/work space. Live-work units provide work and housing space, ideal for the needs of small businesses and artists.
Work is expected to begin in the spring and take eight to nine months to finish. Rents are anticipated to be in the $2000 to $2100 range.
Kissling Interests, LLC purchased its first local building in May 1999 and has been buying historic apartment buildings primarily located on or near Delaware Avenue. The firm now has twenty residential properties with 870 units in Buffalo, owns three commercial buildings, and has a similar work/live project planned in North Tonawanda. The company has been in the real estate business since its inception, purchasing and operating property in and around Manhattan for over 130 years.
Get Connected: Kissling, 716.853.2787

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  • 3317

    “very New York City-like and by far the best lofts in town.”
    well well well yesyesyesyes, it looks like the big boys from the big city agree with me on this one, buffalo lofts to date are only so so ………….
    now, why dont you try to come up with an original name for your own cowering anonymity.

  • 2201

    Very cool project and will bring some $$$ to down town – beautiful buidling and will be a great addition to current neighborhod!

  • 4456

    $2000 a month very NYC indeed, but I think this area could support some lofts at these prices, of course when they convert this to condos they will already have in their tennants people who can afford the mortgage. A nice way to bring wealth downtown.

  • 4459

    {edit} Tony K = great guy, but more lofts??? People…BUY A HOME ALREADY!!! This “lofty” trend has gone on for long enough…it makes for easy sprawling and the building, in the end, always becomes a run down eye-sore.
    Any vacant building gets made into damn lofts these days. Maybe we can make the unused portion (1/3) of city hall into lofts?? {edit- hearsay)

  • 394

    Which Loft-converted buildings, exactly, have turned into run down eye-sore? How does living in an apt. cause sprawl, as opposed to a detached home?

  • 4459

    TownLine – Buffalo being behind the curve so drastically as it is, has yet to see what comes of these lofts. We just jumped on the loft-style band wagon ten years ago (when did the post office on Main St go lofty?).
    WCP, tell him what becomes of such buildings w/o adornments and continual upkeep. NYC knows. LA knows. Chicago knows. Hell, no one knows better than Detroit…they lose their “new” facade and become subsidized apartments for the new ‘hood.
    WCP is just going to delete my shit anyway, so F it, here it is…within 5-10 years, these places will have seen 4-5 turnarounds of tenants. With each tenant, do you think they slap a freshy on the walls and keep it new-like? No. Even if they did, standard maintenence rarely goes into these shitholes. Face it, people don’t raise families in these types of places. It’s desitned to be filled with coke dealers and trust fund babies. Bartenders just can’t afford $2000-2100/month split between two or three of them and they are rent-only so married couples don’t want them. Only blow dealers want this location and can afford this shit with the price of gas, food and downtown living.
    So here it is, these places will see a ROI inside of 4-5 years (depending on what Tony got from the gov) and then when the profit mode kicks in, it will remain in Tony’s NYC-based bank acount while these places slowly crumble into the likes of the Johnson St. “Lofts”. At that time, our new mayor, Barry Snyder, will claim Allentown sacred/sovereign land and will grant a few million to refurnish it into casino dealer lofts, appropriately called ” The Seneca Lofts”. There’s more, but I’m tired. Email me bud!

  • 2316

    $2,000? What? Who in their right mind will pay that? Buffalo is a poor city. You’re lucky if you make over $35,000. We need someone to develop lofts that rent for $750 and condos that sell for $125,000. Blah, blah, blah…

  • 547

    very cool!

  • 489

    Was wondering why this project was stalled, glad to see it moving forward!

  • 987

    What building do they have in NT? Is it the former Wurlitzer factory/ warehouse on the Erie Canal in downtown NT? Great building and great location on Sweeney Street if thats the case. Anyone know?

  • 4624

    Sounds like a great plan! However, as someone who would like to buy a cool new condo in downtown Buffalo, could someone please explain to me why none of these new developments are condos??? There must be a reason, I just haven’t heard it yet…

  • 1038

    I agree mbhxam. There is a severe shortage of condo and everything is turning into overpriced lofts. I’m all for these projects but 2100 to live there is kind of pricey.

  • 2734

    Loft doesn’t mean apartment. It is a style. A true loft is one large rehabbed commercial/industrial space retrofitted for residential use. There are variations on the theme such as soft loft and bedroom loft but the term loft is based on style and not ownership. It just is a coincidence that all lofts in Buffalo are rental right now. These apparently will be live work lofts so the tennant will be able to write of the portion of the rent that is proportional to the amount of the sf used for business purposes. Presumably there will be an office in the floorplan. At 2,000 sf these places are huge. That is a pretty high rent but I don’t think $1 per sf is too out of line for new space.
    BTD what are you talking about? I lived in a loft in Chicago for two years and sold it for $100,000 more than I paid. The loft trend continues unabated and I don’t see any of them (particularly the condos) falling down. I do think the style will go out of fashion eventually…just like the split level “raised ranch” and then I am not sure what will happen

  • 3630

    There you are, nonono, a casket company’s digs to come home to after whistling past the “squatter’s morgue”. Who wouldn’t pay extra for that sublime historical experience?

  • 2498

    These arent condos because the Condo Mapping process and zoning entitlements for these projects are very costly, time consuming and extremely bureaucratic. Condo mapping is hard to recieve in Buffalo.

  • 2498

    oh and i forgot to mention that if it is a Condo project that means it automatically does NOT qualify for ANY grants, tax breaks or incentives from any govt agency. Therefore its much more profitable for the developer to keep as rentals.

  • 2001

    Does anyone see how crazy this is.
    The structure is already done, which is the most expensive aspect of the process and yet they still have to spec out $2M for 10 units. That is $200k a unit. I guess this is what you can expect in Buffalo where workers cost $50-$75 an hour to developers.
    And people wonder why there is no $100k-$150k units being built… IT IS THE COST OF LABOR!!!!
    I have no problem with the cost of renting. I think Buffalo needs to bring in more wealth in the start to turn the corner. All I am saying is Buffalo is ever going to have sustainable growth, the cost of growth has to go WAY DOWN!

  • 347

    RonR while there may be some truth to what you say have many family members in the construction, plumbing or electrical fields I can tell you for sure not a single one of them is making anything close to that. But when you consider the change of use this building is going through it isn’t impossible to think about that amount of money.
    They need to construction all new fire rated hallways and stairwell for residential apts. They need to buy ALL furnishings, appliances, mechanicals, plumbing fixtures, electrical lines, gas lines. Now you can probably do that for less than 200k ./ unit but if you are planning on buying quality products and appliances I could see the costs rising more than the labor. I doubt you are going to find a 150 dollars stove / range combo in this place.
    remember heating/ wiring etc the building as many separate units requires more HVAC equip and lines than a single building with a single occupant might. If it was being turned into office etc I am sure it would be a much cheaper conversion but there are many duplicate systems needed.

  • 3630

    RonR, in most cities, contractors get around these high labor costs with immigrant labor. Buffalo does not have a particularly large pool of immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants to choose from. That affects relative costs in Buffalo. If your’e proposing union-busting, then you’ll see the available pool of skilled labor in Buffalo plummet as people in the trades move elsewhere. Either way, you lose. If high-finish projects like this one cost much more, then you either charge more, or take the hit. Something tells me that these developers are going to take a hit.

  • 3317

    marry me in an illegal gay ceremony you silver tongued devil, you make me damp in regions that are slow to rise these days.
    i want to have you on bed of ground street glass, in a bed chamber embroidered with street graffiti, on a carpet of crack pipes and tiny zip lock baggies, so that we consummate our passion in the classical style of Allentown Amour !
    ravage me on a rusted freighter before god, Al Coppola and the world. spray your international incident across my border crossing until i scream columbus!
    you are wind beneath my morbidity!

  • 2001

    You think like most people in Buffalo. I did not say how much the workers make. I said how much the workers cost. BIG DIFFERENCE!
    Do you think the cost of employing a union workers is just what goes into their paycheck? While both public and private unions love to use these numbers, the COST should be discussed.
    Do some research into the COST of paying a person $20-$30 an hour in WNY and NYS. Add in the COST of Comp Insurance (2x the national average) and other things. $50-$75 is a low ball number in COST.
    The only projects that can afford these COSTS are subsidized private development, high end development and public projects. HMMM
    Just what is built in Buffalo… subsidized private development, high end development and public projects. What a strange coincidence.

  • 3630

    Heavens me, nonono, this is a family site! …and anyway, I’m saving my rusty springs for Elena.

  • 2001

    The area can afford to pay union rates PROVIDED the other BS items that are associated in doing business in the area is lowered or removed.
    No doubt that you need skilled labor and I am not saying they should pick up workers from home depot to lay tile, set plumbing or do trim. What I am saying is NYS has created an environment that does not allow for developers to hire skilled workers and develop for the market rate in Upstate NY. Also the union mindset is to pay people who do no skill labor a rate higher then what they are worth. Is a guy sweeping the floor really worth $15-$20 an hour COSTING $30-$40 an hour to a developer.
    Unions are blind people leading the blind. In their attempts to ensure high wages, they have created an environment where there is no work or a lack of work. What is the point of being paid X is there is no work to be paid for?

  • 3317

    alas, i shall carry my flaming torch in flaccid solitude…..back to my ‘sainted partner’ in his fraying wardrobe of moth eaten scarves…….ECB you a cruel, irresistible, and wanton vixen with your spiced chocolates and your dominating editorial riding crop, who could hope to compete with your seductive prowess? this holiday of love is a cruel cruel season indeed!

  • 3630

    Don’t feel too let down, nonono, for you, I would ‘ride the other bus’.
    You’re right, RonR: featherbedding is shortsighted and ultimately hurts the very people that do it. The problem is one of oversight and due dilligence on the part of the developer. Too many times, they just pay the tab without asking a lot of questions. You have to be out there, with Elena’s “riding crop”, if you will, everyday to keep the knuckleheads in line.

  • 5089

    Better than Detroit reflects part of why Buffalo struggles- a sense of sarcasm and negativity so deep success is not recognized. of course, with Mexico like corruption, I can see the point he makes. The buiding in Buffalo is exciting; hopefully, we are reaching a tipping point, where the optimists outnumber the naysayers. The key is stopping the brain drain–so many smart people leave Buffalo because of lack of jobs etc. In this sense, betterthandetroit is right: have to get people to want to live here as well.

  • 908

    who in their right mind would pay $2K / Month in Buffalo! You can BUY houses 3 blocks west for under 10 thousand! With that being said, maybe it will be a sabre or bill dorm.

  • 1961

    RonR: Best post i’ve read in a while – thanks

  • 4070

    Hey gaustad,
    As the name suggests, this is in Allentown not downtown.

  • 382

    mjman4, but if you go a block and half north you can pay $300K+ for a house. In the block this building is located you could expect to pay $200K for a house.

  • 3630

    So why is this guy renting these lofts out? He’s holding out for a big payoff just like any flipper. That’s not a perjorative because at least someone thinks boom times lie ahead, but who wants to spend that kind of money on lofts just to be a landlord…in this town?

  • 2734

    Is that stone facade original? It looks sort of odd like it was added on later.

  • 3630

    It appears quite original…to differentiate a commercial entrance from the remainder of the structure, a commonplace design feature at that time. And nothing says early twentieth century like split-face stone.

  • 2280

    Is that white car coming out of the lot a VW or an Audi? The difference between the two are substantial, it seems kissling may be confused.

  • 2308

    I agree with tonyarmani that Ron R had a great post. But, I thought that nonono really captured the essence of the the Ghost of Allentown Past.

  • That is definitely an Audi.

  • I think that Kissling is the biggest scam there is in town for a renter-at least when they tout themselves as “Buffalo’s finest” . As a former tenant let me say that they are highly unprofessional. They overwork the maintainance staff they have. The boast 24 hour maintainance which is a huge joke! The only thing they are quick to do is to snatch your rent from you. I would live on the streets before I’d rent from them again.

  • 770

    High end projects like this are very beneficial to the immediate area around them. Hope they rent well. Perhaps Tony K should talk to Ron Alsheimer about the depth of this market. But hey, they both have the pockets to test the waters. good luck.

  • RonR’s comments are refreshing. I think we need a way to check corporate power and the “man” , but unions can cripple development and indeed make the cost of business too high and unappealing. We have to create an environment where developers have an incentive to try to make a profit in Buffalo–a way to offset weather and the reputation of a “dying” town. I moved out of Buffalo to Phoenix. I would still consider myself to have some progressive qualities–but you will have to trust me on this one: pure competition and a lack of Union prescence does have an impact on economic prosperity–now i grant you, that Phx has a moral problem with illegal labor, but a free environment to compete is better for product quality and the experience of the consumer. Buffalo should keep some of its progressive tendencies socially, but it needs to become more fiscally conservative to become appealing to investors and developers alike. Arent the taxes high in Toronto? Isnt the weather the same?

  • mmjazz – You make good points about benefits of economic freedom.
    About your questions at end – no, weather isn’t same in Buffalo and Toronto. Temps are close, but Buffalo gets on avg almost double snow Toronto does. Both are on a Great Lake, but Buffalo is on east edge of one – a big difference for receiving winds bringing more snow and colder wind chill. Lake Erie winds have positive effect June, July, Aug – but other 9 months effects are worse. Way more snow here than any million-plus metro in N. America except Rochester. That isn’t counting snow belt south of city – I’m referring to airport amount.
    Comparing taxes in Buffalo vs. TO is apples-oranges. National tax systems are so different, and for another thing TO is a world financial/commerce center like NYC so people and companies are willing to pay a premium to be there.
    To help overcome weather, Buffalo/Upstate should of course offer below avg taxes to help attract and keep businesses, jobs, people. But instead we choose the past bunch of decades to have higher taxes and other costs of business than so many places in U.S. So we’re colder-snowier, offer above avg costs, and aren’t as important geographically as we once were. Results shouldn’t be surprising.

  • Atwater….thanks for the clarification on weather dynamics-lake effect is certainly a killer. Your points about economic dynamics are important as well. Buffalo’s history is so different; no need to comment on post industrial struggles here. I suppose as an entrepreneur I ride a fine line between reckless enthusiasm and outright madness. I just refuse to be negative about Buffalo and that’s what it willl take. That said, it is important to tell the truth. Buffalo has to market its strengths–and everyone talks about it: food, sports teams, achitecture and natural beauty. I was just thinking about this today; why do I think about Buffalo?…three of my favorite things are far better in Buffalo than Phoenix–restaurants, real estate(architecture), and used book stores(antiques) There is much charm in Buffalo if you are looking for it–as you mentioned, most people dont look for it. Hopefully, we are reaching a point where optimism grows in buffalo–without that, not much matters.
    One of the other keys to buffalo is stoping the braindrain–the area has amazing colleges where students often leave or nestle in the burbs–a grass roots movement to empower entrepreneurs with tax incentives to create small businesses and keep more money in the city would be fantastic. This would then have a positive impact on real estate and people’s perceptions of the area. People need to realize that problems equal money making opportunities–Buffalo has needs and thus is rife with entreprenuerial opportunities. What if Buffalo was thought of as an entreprenuerial hub with local support instead of a rust belt city–the name rust belt doesnt serve us. Hertel and Elmwood are decent examples of small biz hubs. What I have noticed though is that fear keeps people protecting the old guard. If you show enthusiasm, you are either deemed a scam artist or naive. There is an attitude of scarcity in Buffalo, and I think this explains a lot of the distrust and negative attitudes that keep people from thinking big. I say: if its cold, sell frozen lemonade; if its old, find an antique; if there’s a lake, sell bait; if its windy, put up a windmill; if its victorian, sell the charm; if the schools are challenged, start a tutoring company–there is a reason why problem and opportunity are virtually the same word in Chinese. And its undeniably ironic that capitalism reigns virtually free in China, but as you point out, frozen in Buffalo.

  • mmjazz, How long have you been in Phoenix? Isn’t one of those “right to work” states? Just curious.

  • OOPS. Edit: Isn’t Arizona a right to work state? I almost publicly displayed my ignorance.

  • Mmjazz there are and have been plenty of organizations that deal with businesses, tax breaks, and the such. From what I’ve read and seen these organizations can do more harm than good and have actually driven people away and in other cases put them out of business.
    Unless you don’t lower taxes for everyone, don’t bother. You would have to go to Albany for that and well… good luck.
    I walked by 430 Virginia a while back while heading to Bettys and it looked like they were in the middle of doing asbestos removal. And a little while before that I thought the building was just going to get knocked down. Glad I was wrong.
    The neighborhoods around that area are a little odd and get more depressed as you make your way towards the 190.

  • mmjazz – The kinds of targeted tax incentives you suggest sound much like what we’ve already had for many years in Buffalo and NYS – Empire Zones, IDAs, etc. Those have some successes here but don’t seem effective long term on a large scale – too complex, inefficient, politicized. Still, they’ll remain the main tool here for economic dev. Stay-the-course political realities seem entrenched statewide. Major pro-business reforms are unlikely, so high taxes and high business costs probably will just have to be tolerated. In some cases our cheaper real estate and salaries can help compensate.
    You’re right that Hertel and Elmwood are pockets of success. Buffalo’s economy is strong enough to have a few of those in the city and even more in some burbs. But most of the city isn’t seeing anything like that, and I don’t think state and local govts can seriously help turn this area into an ‘entrepreneurial hub’ without some very big types of changes they have no intention of making. OTOH, some entrepreneurs and established companies do succeed here, so growth here isn’t impossible but overall is usually quite weaker than some other places and national averages.
    Yes – optimism, enthusiasm, and positivity can serve individuals very well in Buffalo or anywhere. However those concepts are far less able to have broad economic impact in cities, regions, states. Macro factors tend to dominate at those levels. With life more easily mobile than ever, people and companies can pack up their optimism, etc. to move or expand anywhere they want – or never decide to invest here in the first place. Seems to me if a city or region has negative vibes, it’s likely a symptom of deeper problems rather than being a major cause.

  • Atwater/Eisen/pegger
    yeah, I am little out of the loop on the tax incentives programs, I appreciate the information. It’s even more commendable for small businesses to do so well in Buffalo with all the challenges they are up against. I am sure it could and might already be a training ground for entrepreneurs. I liked your phrase, Atwater, “pack up their optimism” because that’s what my wife and I did 12 years ago–we were fortunate in terms of real estate values and built three houses in 5 years, while we were both teachers on fairly modest salaries. No lawyers, no red tape. Sign a few papers and a house is up in 6 months-very different out here. A right to work state, yes, but also a right to prosperity if you hustle-that way its partly on merit as well. And a house at a value of 500k has property taxes of about 1900 a year. Perhaps the thing that frustrates me the most for people in buffalo are the utilities: all are higher in buffalo, and of course the gas prices are much higher because of weather. But our water bills are lower than yours, and we dont have water, and are supposed to have a water crisis some day. With a sister who has remained in Tonawanda, for 30 years it always burned me up to the see the reality–the money that she is paying in property taxes(3X) mine, plus the utility bills have made it difficult for her to get ahead. We have been fortunate to be able to use the available money to buy nicer homes etc. (although the market is tricky now) we have still done extremely well. I think energy bills and taxes are two of the broad factors that you speak of and do require, as someone said in another response, relief for everyone, not just business owners. Although I will say this is part of the resentment that can exist for people–people in buffalo dont like it when they see “rich” people getting breaks–they resent it. But they are the visionaries who create the jobs-its not the person with the resentment. that said, everyone needs to feel like they win==that is the challenge.
    It is a shame that this is true “pro business reforms are not likely”–your last paragraph shows a clear need for a paradigm shift, that as you put is unlikely. As for macro factors, I think it will be a long road but anything is possible. pro business reforms, stopping the braindrain, and improving education are keys in bufff. I am a little stubborn when it comes to optimism–I agree with everything you have said. the great tragedy is that the amount of higher level education and the raw brain power of the area is strong–a lot of buffalo folks could eat the lunch of many people out here–the difference might be belief. what do people believe is possible? I think its all about belief– as you say “negative vibes”. Our discussions start with beliefs and end with it.
    I was at avenue books on hertel and I had an interesting experience. This very enthusiastic senior from Canisius College came in and asked for a job application. I thought, that’s interesting. Pounding pavement on hertel avenue looking for a gig. I think he was a sports medicine major, but he had enthusiasm and tenacity–you could see it. The area needs mentors for small young people to start businesses and keep money in the area.How many of these types of kids leave? How many lose their enthusiasm because of a government that fails them? it wont be easy because of the macro factors, but wouldnt it be fun? I mentor kids like that out here. best