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Niagara @ the Front Lofts

A residential project designed to take advantage of unique Buffalo River views is moving forward.  Ellicott Development Group is working with architect Charles Gordon on reuse plans for 960 Busti Avenue to create approximately 23 residential units and some commercial space.  The development company purchased the site in April 2008 along with a nearby property at 1050 Niagara Street from Ciminelli Development.

The 67,900 sq.ft. Busti Avenue property was built in 1930.  It is the former home of Multiform Desiccants, now operating under the name Multisorb Technologies, manufacturer of absorbent products commonly found in pill bottles among other uses.  The company is now located on Harlem Road in West Seneca.

Figure 2.jpg“The site overlooks the Peace Bridge at the mouth of the Niagara River, truly a one of a kind location,” says Charles Gordon, principal of Charles Gordon Architecture.

According to Gordon, what makes this challenging development so unique and yet so tricky is its spectacular and historic waterfront location.  Historic because the site is at the convergence of Niagara and Busti Avenue.  Busti was historically named Front Street that overlooked the Erie Canal on its way further down the coastline to terminate at Olmsted’s Front Park (see last image below).

This great location presents a daunting challenge.  It must reconnect to the residential neighborhood to the east.  Just like elsewhere in Buffalo, city residential development turned away from rather than embraced the waterfront no matter how spectacular the setting.

The design for the project according to Gordon was “pretty easy and rather straightforward–adapt an industrial building into a mixed-use, largely residential building.”

Site development has proven to be more difficult. 

The site design must establish a plausible and strong link to its surrounding neighborhood, and this link must extend across a still very busy, some say dividing, Niagara Street commercial/industrial corridor. 

figure 3.jpg“As the graphics show, the re-design of the building will re-image the exterior with very large window openings, add both recessed and projecting balconies, and will create a new penthouse apartment level,” says Gordon.   “This new level will form a cornice to the building and will contain spectacular rooftop apartments which will also add a new distinctive waterfront landmark.  It will be iconic from land and water.”

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DSCN1047.JPGfigure 4.jpgWith respect to site development, the design incorporates an existing triangular park, resulting from rotated street geometries, into a new grand front door. These unique street geometries, so prevalent on the West Side, become even more pronounced as one nears the riverfront.  The end result is unusual and potentially very beneficial spaces.

“Adding the park to the site scheme helps to extend the building’s front door back into its West Side neighborhood,” says Gordon.

At its other edge–the west limit overlooking the river– the design creates a drive up/drop-off overlook that, one can imagine, would be unrivalled anywhere in the region.

In addition, the site design is compatible with the planned future Peace Bridge plaza project as it is outside of the footprint the Public Bridge Authority has been eyeing for expansion. 

A construction start date has not been set.  Ellicott Development has just finished the lofts in the Baker Shoe complex downtown (photos coming later this week), is expanding the Bellasara project at Allen and Delaware, and has several other residential and commercial projects in various stages of development.

Get Connected:
Charles Gordon Architecture, 716.839.6119
Ellicott Development Group, 716.854.0060

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Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

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