A historic gas station in the Larkin District has shed its white skin and is being readied for new life. Larkin Development Group is converting the Larkin Station #6 at Seneca and Van Rensselaer streets to retail space. The filling station was purchased in late-May along with the three-story “Larkin U” building at 237 Van Rensselaer and two parking lots. All are next to the Larkin at Exchange office building.
Preliminary work includes removing underground storage tanks and stripping the white metal panels from the building, remnants of a Gulf Oil makeover some fifty years ago (above image). While final plans for the conversion have not been set, Larkin Development Group principal Howard Zemsky says, “It’s our instinct to do some cool retail of some type.”
The building, known as the Larkin Gas Station #6, was constructed in 1930 to serve the customers of the mail order company’s sprawling department store.
The Larkin Company is credited with establishing the first chain of bulk gas stations in the United States, constructing stations across Western New York, Peoria, Illinois, and western Pennsylvania. The station at 725 Seneca is one of the first of these stations and one of the last known to remain standing. Like all the Larkin gas stations, it is located within the vicinity of a railroad spur to reduce transportation costs and to pass the savings onto the consumer. The stations were bought out after the company was liquidated in 1941.
The one-story brick station is built with a level of sturdiness that is common to the structures built by the Larkin Company. They contrast with the slapdash, disposable gas stations and convenience stores that are common to today’s urban scene.
Zemsky is still studying re-use options for the larger, circa-1893 Larkin U building (photo below).
“We are going to focus on preparing the broader site and the former Larkin filling station in the short-term and have no firm time frame regarding the Larkin U building,” he says. “Larkin U finally gives us some ‘inventory’ down here and we have no time pressure.”
Larkin Development Group and step-sister firm, LCo Development Co., an affiliate of CityView Properties, which Zemsky is also a principal of, have quietly purchased over two dozen Larkin District parcels over the past few years. The development firms envision creating a mixed-use neighborhood consisting of office, retail and residential space in new and restored buildings over time.
CityView took a leap of faith in 2002 when the developer purchased the mammoth circa-1912 Larkin Co. warehouse at the corner of Van Rensselaer and Exchange streets after being vacated by Graphic Controls. Over the next two years, the developer spent over $12 million transforming the 10-story, 600,000 sq.ft. building into a multi-tenant office facility. Nearly 2,000 people now work in the building.
“I promise we’re plenty busy with what’s on our plate, so stay tuned,” says Zemsky.
Get Connected: Larkin Development Group, 716.362.2677
Filling Station construction photos by Chris Hawley.