Buffalo could use a few more development enthusiasts like Noel Sutton. I wouldn’t exactly call Sutton a developer, although he has certainly racking up enough accomplishments to warrant the distinction. The distinction is not what he wants though. Sutton wants to be known as the guy who is piecing historic Allentown back together bit by bit. It all started with Savoy on Elmwood (in Allentown). He took a ramshackle liquor store and turned it into posh drinking establishment. Then he did The Puritan – one of the greatest turnarounds in the entire city. Next he tacked The Coatsworth Mansion, and another instrumental residential beauty on a neighboring block.
Back in December, Sutton picked up 244 Allen Street – the building is home to Melting Point (expanding next door) and Allen Street Poutine Company (notice the new patio?). Upstairs from the two businesses was what Sutton refers to as “a wreck”. While the building was by no means as ornamental and posh as The Puritan, it had still been built with pride 100 years ago. Much of the telltale signs of craftsmanship had long ago disappeared, which meant that Sutton had to take cues from his other properties in Allentown.
The first thing he did was go to Allentown Antiques (across the street) to see if they could get ahold of antique fireplace mantels.
After that, he began to match the old mantels with the rooms – a mix of studios and doubles. He also decided that he needed to stitch the building together with marble mosaics, which can now be found in the hallways, bathrooms and staircases.
He also stepped up and installed granite countertops in all of the kitchens.
The design elements that he is most proud of are the transom windows in the bedrooms and at the entranceways that allow natural light to filter from one room to the next. He learned that trick at The Puritan, and felt that he should mimic the detail in The Chelsea a couple of doors down.
Oh yeah, the building is called The Chelsea, denoted by the large ‘C’ carved into marble above the entranceway.
Of course it’s called the Chelsea… every great city has a “Chelsea”. That’s the way Sutton’s train of though goes.
Now Buffalo has a restored Puritan, Chelsea, Coatsworth… “These are the buildings that made Allentown great,” noted Sutton. “Then they were neglected, stripped and destroyed. They had establishments like Billy Club on the first floor (now in The Puritan) – it’s all part of making a neighborhood great again. These were wonderful, respectable buildings, where people conducted business and walked about doing their daily rituals. I’m a stickler for character. I want people to feel proud that they live in my buildings, so I overbuild them, just the way my predecessors did. Pound for pound, you won’t find a historic restoration company that is building a portfolio like we are. We’re restoring these units for the young professionals, such as the ones at the Medical Campus. We want them to live here, and we want them to be happy with the amenities, the views… or simply being able to walk to a bakery or school down the street.”
Along with the transom windows and faux fireplaces, Sutton added iron staircase railings, colored glass window patterns, sleek art deco lighting elements, raised ceilings, restored brass mailboxes… “I wanted it to have the feel of a quaint boutique hotel in NYC,” added Sutton. “All of the lighting is LED, some of the apartments come with a flatscreen with Netflix, heat is included, everything is gleaming and polished, except for the design elements that we chose to leave rustic.”
As I walked down Allen Street with Sutton, his pride was evident. He talked and pointed and shared his points of view on the city, and the street. He described the scene before he got hold of his buildings, and then described a new vision that he has for the neighborhood. He’s fine with the somewhat seedy bars and acknowledges that it’s all part of what makes bohemian Allentown so great. But at the same time, he can’t stand to see broken pieces of wood on storefronts, missing awnings, burned out signs, missing trees, cheap hack jobs done on commercial properties. Sutton looks for the potential that a neighborhood has to offer – the building blocks – he wants to see the negative issues and eyesores addressed. Fortunately, Sutton has the ways, the means, the desire, and the fortitude, to keep plowing forward with his accomplishments.
With Sutton, there’s always a “What’s next on the docket?” For Buffalo, that is a dream come true.
On Saturday, July 9, Sutton will be hosting an open house at The Chelsea between 10am and 1pm. Stop by and check out the apartments, walk the street, and re-familiarize yourself with an Allentown that continues to dust itself off building by building.
Professional photographs taken by Kim Smith