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Kissling’s Attention to Detail Creates a Winning Formula

Since acquiring 2096-2104 Delaware Avenue in 1999, Kissling Interests has made its mark buying tired, sometimes historic, apartment buildings and renovating them.  Today, the Manhattan-based company owns over 950 apartments in the city and the number continues to grow.

Kissling remains busy with plans to upgrade the Ambassador apartments building, a property Kissling purchased in 2000, and improvements to 249 North Street, a mansion-turned multi-family apartment building left half-renovated by a previous owner. 

The company is also making a push into adaptive reuse of vacant structures.  Its first project, the conversion of the former National Casket Co. warehouse in Allentown has been a runaway success.  Kissling is now renovating a former factory in North Tonawanda and will soon start redevelopment of a former hotel on West Huron Street downtown.

DSC_03221.jpgAt 430 Virginia Street, ten residences were created in at the Allentown Lofts project that quickly leased after opening earlier this year.  While the location of the building was a plus, Kissling officials say the building’s finishes and amenities were a big part of the project’s success.

Units in Allentown Lofts are leasing for up to $3000/month.  Kissling’s Executive Vice President Scott LaCasse says it is proof that tenants are willing to pay for quality space and finishes.  It is an approach the company is applying to its upcoming projects. 

Kissling is asking New Jersey-based Ziegler Designs to repeat the winning design formula that worked so well at Allentown Lofts.  

“Allentown Lofts was the first building that I was fortunate enough to work on in Buffalo,” says Jennifer Ziegler, owner of Ziegler Designs.  “My philosophy was to showcase the historic architecture of the building with modern minimalist design.”

“I purposefully left the speed tile exposed, refinished original hardwood floors, and kept the tin elevator doors,” says Ziegler.  “This is what adds character and it also salvages what would normally end up in landfills.   Minimalist but warm – keeping true to the industrial roots of the building yet comfortable and luxurious for tenants.”

“Over the past fourteen years, since first opening the doors to my interior design business, I have taken on many different types of design jobs, but I am always consistent in staying true to the period of building and my clients’ needs,” she says.

Ziegler was an art history major in college with an appreciation for historic buildings.  “I am extremely passionate about salvaging and re-building to meet the needs of today’s consumer,” she says.  “Inspiration comes from existing architectural elements and my design is based around all that can be salvaged.  Saving buildings is my true passion.  With each new project my inventive and innovative style continues to evolve.”

“I am inspired by existing architectural elements and my design always evolves from this point,” says Ziegler.

Remington Rand is a North Tonawanda factory with a lot of history.  It is being redeveloped as a destination point – it will encompass a restaurant, hair salon, dry cleaners, yoga studio and 80 work/live lofts (entry image).  The project is the first Kissling has done in the area outside the City of Buffalo.  Ziegler is collaborating with architecture, engineering and design firm Carmina Wood Morris on the design for the project. 

remington1.jpg“The existing columns are beautiful and were the inspiration for the units,” says Ziegler (pictured with Tony Kissling at Remington site, below right).  “The kitchen cabinet design was built around exposed columns and the master shower has a column in the corner.  Instead of concealing the columns in closets, I made sure each column was showcased.”

Raydoor sliding doors are used to section off the office area – when open there is a large versatile space – when closed it can be an additional bedroom or office.  True NYC lofts are large open spaces where rooms are delineated only by functional design elements. 

IMG_2624.JPG“We are introducing SOHO lofts which leave tenants with flexibility to figure out how they want to live,” she says.  “I have selected high-end finishes that are energy star rated, water saving plumbing, thermal pane windows, recycled quartz countertops, polished concrete floors, contemporary wood cabinetry, exposed duct work and hybrid hot water heaters.  This project will enhance the community and meets the needs of locals and businesses.  We are retaining history in not only the building but the city itself.”

The project’s first phase is expected to begin occupancy in late-November.  “They are going to be amazing units,” she says. “I’m really excited about this project.”

Next month will also see the start of two other Kissling projects: Renovation of the Lake Hotel and a substantial renovation of the Ambassador Apartments.

Eight apartments will be created in the long-vacant Lake Hotel at 201 West Huron Street in the Historic West Village just steps from City Hall and the new Federal Courthouse.  There will be seven two-bedroom units and one, one-bedroom unit.  Three of the apartments on the main floor will be two-level units with the bedrooms on the garden level.  Carmina Wood Morris is the architect for this project as well.

“The Lake Hotel is a gorgeous historic building that will showcase beautiful European design,” says Ziegler.  “My inspiration for this property comes from the French over door panels, custom millwork, and a petite scale.  My design concept is classic and high-end.”

Ziegler’s selections reflect the period of the building and highlight existing millwork and unique existing elements.  Fireplaces will be the focal point in the living rooms.  Bathrooms will have subway tile and finishes to reflect the era of the building. 

“I am fulfilled knowing that I’m saving, restoring and salvaging the Lake Hotel,” she says.  “It is important to honor the architect who created this beautiful building and I have customized my design scheme to meet the needs of today’s tenant while staying true to the bones of the building.  The finishes will be high-end with a European flair.”

lobby_final-8-29-2010[1].bmpThe company is planning a top-to-bottom renovation of the Ambassador apartments at 175 North Street.  The eight-story, circa-1930 landmark is located between Elmwood and Delaware avenues and has been owned by Kissling for ten years.

“We are hoping to start renovations by November,” says Ziegler.  “I have redesigned the lobby (rendering right), hallways, and all of the units.”

A model unit will be complete in a few weeks with existing tenants invited to view the proposed finishes and renovation plans. 

Apartments will have granite countertops, new cabinets, re-finished hardwood floors, new appliances, fresh paint, new doors, new hardware, lighting, backsplash and plumbing (below right). Bathrooms will receive new tile, vanities, lighting, plumbing fixtures, and medicine cabinets.

medium_apt-9-17-2010.JPG“We want to discuss renovation plans with the tenants to get feedback which we will incorporate into the final design,” says Ziegler.  Kissling Interests will assume all costs of moving expenses and relocation of tenants while renovations are being completed.

Kissling is developing a niche in high-end rentals.  The modern yet warm designs in Kisslings’ new projects are a hit. 

“My design concepts are always based on the building itself,” says Ziegler.  “I always stay true to the lines and bones of a building.  I personally believe that the Buffalo market is ready for innovative, cutting edge design.  They want true lofts…not cookie cutter spaces called ‘lofts”.

“What makes Buffalo so inviting is the many different styles of architecture,” she adds.  “I have never been to a city in the USA with so many beautiful and aesthetically pleasing buildings.  When I drive through the city I get goose bumps seeing the passion of previous architects.  It’s a truly amazing city.”

Get Connected:  Kissling Interests: 716.853-2787, Carmina Wood Morris, 716.842.3165

Ziegler Designs email.

large_apt[2].JPGInterior and exterior renderings of Remington Lofts by Carmina Wood Morris.

Written by WCPerspective


Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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  • LouisTully

    What downtown Buffalo really needs isn’t affordable, cool apartments. Downtown needs affordable, cool condominiums, or whatever you want to call a unit owned by the resident. Your options for living downtown: $800-$1300/month rent for an apartment, or $500,000+ for a condo. How about $100,000+ for a unit an individual can own, benefit from resale, and increase the investment in the city from the sense of ownership in a neighborhood. The people creating housing downtown are still thinking inside the box. Once someone starts thinking outside the box the residency downtown will boom.

  • Chris

    How hard is it to change from an apt to a condo? To my knowledge it only takes a legal document that is sent to all residents “red herring”.
    At some point someone will try it, but my point is that you don’t have to build a building to be condos they can very easily be changed over time.

  • JSmith

    I have heard that there are some complications if tax credits are used for the rehab because they can only be used on an income-producing property (i.e., rental). After a certain period (5 years?) the credit has been fully awarded and then the property could be converted into condos.
    There are inexpensive condos available ($120-$140) at 65 Whitney. Pretty close to downtown.

  • queenie

    Kissling does a fine job with many buildings– for real people making real salaries. But, come on! These illustrations are depressing. They look like basement rec rooms. $3,000 a month? To live in Buffalo? GIVE ME A BREAK!

  • Sevenonesix

    I agree about the pricing.
    I am (unfortunately) an ex-pat who spent his life in WNY, and a number of years Downtown in one of the first conversions to come to Buffalo. It was incredible to see the steps we were taking to better our city.
    (Disclaimer: This is NOT an advocacy for NYC. Simply a monetary comparison. I would pawn my last pair of shoes to be back in the midst of Buffalo’s reawakening.) I read BRO daily (hourly?) to vicariously participate. However, I could get a pretty nice apartment in a historic Brooklyn brownstone, steps from anything and everything, for under $3k/month. It wouldn’t be immaculate like these- but “location, location..”
    The first time I read about Tony’s plans with Casket and Allentown Lofts, I was thrilled. But I was taken aback by the prices. The two years I spent downtown: Brand new unit, gated parking, balcony with gorgeous view, 42″ TV, (faux!) fireplace, tons of space. $600 and change a month. Sure, it was income restricted, but that ceiling wasn’t restrictively low if I remember correctly.
    $3k a month should be giving Buffalo-Lovers access to ownership. I know I would not be the only one licking their lips for that.
    Great read- thanks yet again WCP!

  • Dagner

    I’ve heard a local, prominent, historically-sensitive, developer explain that while he gets this request frequently: (build low to mid-priced condos) the numbers just don’t work. Rental income for thirty years can justify investment, one-time sales of such condos does not.
    I wish it weren’t true. I agree we would see significant migration into the city.

  • sho’nuff

    So true, plus we do not have a stable market for condos in the city yet. The majority of 20 and 30 something that I know who once rented in the city have left once they were married or when their first child reached school age. It is trendy and hip to live in the urban core when you are young and don’t have as much at stake as a parent. That being said, there is a market for singles, couples without kids, and parents who can afford private schools and have the time to take their children to and from school every day.

  • The Kettle

    As long as people are willing to pay that much why complain?

  • EricOak

    Why is the architect/designer removing all the original light fixtures in the lobby? They’re wonderful!
    Great project, but the rendering of the lobby looks so predictable–generic contemporary furniture and generic lighting. Why not preserve some of the 20’s Spanish colonial flavor of the original lobby? Don’t make this building look like every other dull contemporary apartment house in the city. They’re all starting to look the same.

  • Pegger

    There is another demographic that might want to live here. Me! As a retired person who no longer has any use for the suburbs (kids long gone), I find these appealing. As one who has a good retirement and can afford the rent, I don’t want to live in an income restricted building. There is a lifestyle clash with other residents who are busy doing what they do appropriate for their ages and income. I am considering living downtown or near there once there are are businesses to support the people who do live there. Hopefully, that will be sooner than later.

  • sho’nuff

    So true, that has been covered on BRO before. Urban minded 18 – 30 year old and 65+ year old people have ample opportunity in the city. The issue is that most of these people are either at the beginning stages of income and wealth, or at the end stage when they rely on retirement savings and social security. These people are great for the city, but they are not bringing the robustness needed to truly make the urban community. We need to do more to welcome those in the middle years, from 30 – 65. We need to make the city more attractive to families and middle class earners. This would bring much needed stability to downtown residential, which is highly transient at the moment.

  • The Kettle

    I’m not sure if its wise to sell downtown living to couples with children. Downtowns are inherently more appealing to people who don’t have kids who also make up a huge chunk of the housing market. There is nothing wrong with a transient community as long as people keep moving in which appears to be the case in downtown Buffalo.
    As far as homeownership: Lenders are going to be a lot more conservative with who they will write mortgages to for the foreseeable future. That means more renters in the market many of which will gravitate to these types of developments. For those that must own and walk to downtown, there are plenty of options to buy property in the neighborhoods in the immediate area.

  • Mr. Pelham

    my business is moving into the penthouse of the Rand building in NT. I can’t wait.

  • nick

    Let’s also give some credit to Carmina Wood architects who have done a great job revitalizing these buildings.