Chris and Matthew Siano are bringing new life to the corner of Grant and Potomac. The brothers' HES Properties II LLC purchased 368 Grant Street
in late-February for $32,500 and will renovate the currently vacant building. When finished early next year, 2,000 sq.ft. of commercial space will be available on the first floor and four apartments, each approximately 750 sq.ft., will fill the upper levels.
Chris Siano moved to Buffalo in 1997 and pursued his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Architecture at UB. For the last nine years he has worked as the Instructional Support Technician for Sculpture in the UB Department of Visual Studies.
Matthew resides in Rye, New York and is the General Counsel of a multi-national investment manager headquartered in New York City. He graduated from The College of William & Mary in Virginia and Fordham Law School.
In 2005, Chris purchased 112 Johnson Park, a 1860's brick cottage that was in total disrepair. Together with Matt's help, they did a full gut rehab of the building, combining a modern interior with a historically accurate restoration of the building's façade.
Last year the brothers decided to parlay their experience on Johnson Park into a formal real estate development company and went about seeking an ideal first project.
"We were looking for a larger, mixed-use property in an undervalued area of the city that had real potential for growth over the long term," says Chris. They found what they were looking for at 368 Grant Street, a building formerly occupied by Phil Martino's West Side Appliance and Furniture.
"Grant Street is an ideal spot," explains Chris. "Home prices in the Elmwood area have reached levels that are forcing first time home buyers west of Richmond Avenue; the effects of which are already being seen. As property values continue to increase on the West Side, commercial development on Grant Street will also increase. Grant Street has great architecture; it has pedestrian traffic; it has a vibrant immigrant community; it has access to the 198; and it's close to Buffalo State College. Anyone who doesn't see the potential on Grant Street doesn't remember what Allen Street looked like in 1997. We also wanted to focus our efforts on an area of the city where we felt City officials would be excited for us to get involved. And that is exactly what we have seen. Thus far, we've gotten a ton of good advice and support from the people in City government."
The building is in terrible shape and will be receiving a top to bottom makeover.
"The roof was leaking, the parapet was damaged, the plaster was soaked, the second and third floors were dropping, and portions of the first floor were collapsed into the basement," says Chris. "There was no water or functioning mechanical systems. To be honest, it was exactly the type of building we were looking for. We don't know how long the building has been vacant but based on its condition we would guess 5 to 10 years."
The Sianos explored utilizing historic preservation tax credits but have decided against it.
"We were lucky enough to be put in touch with Jason Yots of Preservation Studios," explains Chris. "Jason walked us through the process of applying for historic tax credits. Ultimately we decided against it because of the amount of time it would have taken. We were concerned we needed to get our interior demolition permit as soon as possible so we could get the building structurally stabilized."
"We closed on the building in late February and in less than three months have already completed the asbestos abatement, interior demolition and installation of temporary shoring," says Chris. "We have also secured an architect [Karl Frizlen of The Frizlen Group] and submitted construction drawings to the Building Department. There's no way we could have moved at that pace had we applied for tax credits."
The Sianos are making a long-term commitment to the neighborhood.
"We have no interest in flipping property," says Chris. "We're building from the ground up. In 20 years we'll still be on Grant Street."