The first substantial rehabilitation project on the east side is gearing up for greatness at the Otis Bed Manufacturing Building, located at 170 Florida Street. Located in the Hamlin Park Historic District, the rehab will be utilizing historic tax credits to help bridge the budget gap for tackling historic preservation projects. Jason Yots and Jason Wilson of Common Bond Real Estate began their due diligence over a year ago to purchase the property, which recently closed in January. Karl Frizlen joined the team as a co-developer and architect, adding another historic rehab project to his portfolio.
Plans call for the building to be converted to thirty-four market rate apartments spread across the whole building, which would primarily be two bedroom units with some one bedrooms, with either one or two bathrooms Units will range between 700 square feet to a little over 1,000 square feet with rents from $900 to $1,250 per month.
Building on the foundation of the solid neighborhood and proximity to metro rail, the development team is hoping to attract tenants who will benefit from the central location and access to public transportation options. “On a bad day, it only takes about five minutes to get to the core of downtown via Jefferson Avenue from the building,” notes Wilson, “It is almost dead center of the city geographically.”
It was built by the Otis Bed Company, which made and sold mattresses, box springs, and bed frames. They also had a patented mattress rejuvenation machine for cleaning the feathers in the mattress for re-stuffing when required. Otis is still in business today, although no longer located in the City of Buffalo. The next occupant was Bernard Oshei who made products of synthetic plastic. Fibron was the most recent manufacturing occupant, but went under in 2006. The building was then purchased at the In-Rem foreclosure auction in 2007 for a cool $25,000, which sounds like a deal until you add the near half million dollars invested by the previous owner to get the building up to snuff for storing building salvage materials.
The team believes the project will be attractive to medical campus professionals as well as repats to the Hamlin Park neighborhood. Many long time residents of Hamlin Park who have moved elsewhere are often returning to their childhood neighborhood and not everyone wants to own and maintain a home in doing so. “If not for the proactive creation of a local historic district by the Hamlin Park Community & Taxpayers Association in the 1990s, this building likely would be a vacant lot by now, “ said Yots. “The Association’s long-time commitment to the neighborhood and nearly a half century of hard work has made it one of the most livable and sustainable communities in the city.”
In addition to the apartments, Preservation Studios will relocate their offices to the building on the first floor. The company is already located in the Hamlin Park neighborhood, having moved there in 2013 from the west side. “Since we moved our office to Hamlin Park we have been welcomed with open arms by both residents and businesses alike,” explained Mike Puma, one of the three company principals (along with Yots and Derek King). “We can’t imagine a better place to grow our business or a wiser place to invest our company’s resources. I was pretty unaware of the neighborhood until we began our survey work in 2011 for National Register listing. We got to walk every street, talk to hundreds of residents, and just fell in love.”
The parcel extends all the way to Jefferson Avenue, which provides more than ample on site parking, but also the potential for infill down the road. Any new construction would be under the purview of the Preservation Board to ensure the design, materials, and massing fit the historic context of the neighborhood. The development team is comprised of urban planning minded members, so expect something built to the curb with parking at the rear, which would bring some great life back to this stretch of Jefferson.
Like many industrial buildings of its time, there were several additions and expansions over the years as business boomed and changed. The original building is a two-story reinforced concrete structure from 1911, which had the third floor gambrel roof added in 1913. The next addition came in 1923 with the wedge shaped brick building to the east. Although now buried, the Scajaquada Creek is to blame for the odd shape as it runs directly behind the building.
In 1942 there was a concrete addition at the back of the original building to house an indoor pool. Unfortunately, the pool was filled in, the tin ceilings were removed, and the basket weave tile was covered up later on. The final additions are the concrete block buildings to the west, having been added in 1972 and 1975.
Building on the industrial character of the building, the interior will evoke the sense of a factory building while providing modern living. The concrete and steel columns will be on display throughout units, tall ceilings will be maintained, and even the original maple flooring on the second floor of the brick addition will be refinished. Rehab work should begin near the end of summer with completion slated for mid to late 2017.