In 2008, members of the Lafayette Presbyterian Church came to the realization that they had a major problem on their hands. The church’s congregation had dwindled down to a mere 100 people, who occupied the 60,000 square foot building.
With the increasingly overwhelming burden of the real estate, a fundamental decision had to be made. Sell the church, move, or come up with a creative solution. Since the congregation had occupied the building since the 1890’s, members felt a deep attachment to the building. It was then decided that in order to retain a presence in the church, the church would have to reinvent itself. The building would be repurposed into a mixed use residential and worship space, outfitted with modern day amenities that would suit a new generation of re-energized Buffalonians.
I spoke to Murray Gould of Port City Preservation LLC in Syracuse who was retained as a contractor on the project (Peyton Barlow is the General Contractor). “My favorite part of this project,” Murray said. “Is that each of the 21 residential units is uniquely different. They retain the architectural beauty of the church. We had to be creative with this development. There’s nothing else like it in the city of Buffalo.”
A walk through the church allowed me to get a deeper understanding and appreciation for the incredible task that the architects (Carmina Wood Morris) faced when they embarked upon creating the mix of uses. Future loft dwellers will come to realize that the design elements in their apartments truly reflect the nature of the space that they occupy. Some lofts retain elements of the old gymnasium, while others showcase parts of the historic chapel (only recently uncovered after 60 years of being shuttered). One resident might even have floors that were formerly bowling alleys.
Another will have vaulting chamber ceilings with stained glass windows and LED lit wooden arches. Yet another will be situated in a chapel choir loft. One of my favorite units was located in the attic – a space that remained relatively untouched, and reminded me of an old school house. More than anything else, I was excited to see that so many lost and forgotten design elements (many boarded up or with drop ceilings) were being uncovered, repaired, and incorporated into the new architectural plans (see below).
When the residences are complete, there will be some that resemble Tutor in style. Others will take on the appearance of modern lofts. Then there are the townhouse units. The mix of singles and doubles will all feature modern amenities such as air conditioning and instant hot water. Plus, the location of Lafayette Lofts will allow dwellers to access the desirable conveniences of Elmwood Avenue.
While the residential component of the building is coming together nicely, there are other building amenities that round out the project. A state of the art commercial kitchen is being built in the basement. The kitchen will function as a culinary incubator for small businesses, food trucks, caterers, chef-taught classes, farm-to-table events, wine series, etc. “We want this to be a place where the community comes together to celebrate food,” Murray told me. “This is what adaptive reuse is all about. Next to the kitchen there’s going to be a small Montessori school. And then there’s a parlor space that can accommodate 50 people for meetings, gatherings, socials, etc. A modern office space with an A/V boardroom is also being built out. Finally, the historic assembly hall will be divided in half, creating an intimate space for worshippers, and another space that will function as a community center (perfect for catered wedding receptions up to 350 people, events, functions). All of the amenities work together to complete a fully functioning residential and community center that allows the current congregation to co-exist and thrive.”
Leasing for the units will start on October 1. Murray tells me that the demand is already high, and the inquiries are rolling in daily. Interested parties can follow developments as they unfold at Lafayette-Lofts.com.
*The project was financed through Evans Bank and secured grants via the Elmwood Village Association (NYS Main Street Program) and The National Parks Service (tax credits).