May Wong, the owner of a two-story building at 15 Allen Street, is heading to the Preservation Board today to seek approval to redevelop the site. An earlier plan to demolish the entire building and rebuild on the site was denied by the Board but a partial demolition was approved in March on the condition that the front façade be incorporated into a new building. Due to the poor condition of the façade, Wong is back with a modified plan to salvage reusable portions of the facade and incorporate it into a new building.
Architect Adam Sokol has designed a three-story residential building with commercial space along Allen Street. The Allen Street facade will incorporate elements of the original building with a modern addition to the rear. Sokol presents the project and the justification for the approach in a comprehensive packet to the Board:
The existing Allen Street facade consists of a first floor base which is nearly entirely glazed storefronts, two commercial entries, and two residential entries, with a minor amount of brick facade, and some decorative elements which appear to be cast stone.
The second floor is a brick masonry facade with two “Chicago-style” windows and two smaller windows which were originally double-hung. Because of the lack of supporting masonry, it is believed that the second floor of this facade is supported by a steel beam which likely bears on three steel columns that are concealed by masonry trim on the first floor. Although no structural steel is currently visible, no other structural system could plausibly support the wall as it appears.
Because of the inherent instability of a heavy masonry wall supported by a single steel beam, the structural engineer for this project, Cathy Styn, P.E. of Siracuse Engineers, believes that attempting to shore and stabilize the wall in place is impractical and potentially dangerous, and a letter from her attesting to this fact has been submitted for the record. Additionally, although the second floor masonry is in good condition, the original facade of the first floor is severely deteriorated, with significant original fabric either missing or damaged or altered beyond repair. This has also been documented with supporting materials.
For this reason, we have proposed to salvage all those visible materials that are either in good condition, or that can plausibly be restored, including the following: face brick; cast stone trim including decorative surrounds, cornices, banding, door and window jambs, sills and headers, and other similar elements; and the original windows still extant on the second floor. We would then demolish the remainder and construct a new facade which would be as similar as possible to the existing, and would rehabilitate and reincorporate the materials described above.
The new structure we have proposed is a three-story, wood-frame Type-V multiple dwelling structure, whose massing and design will comply with the City of Buffalo Green Code. The third story has been designed with multiple setbacks from the original, reconstructed facade so as to distinguish the new construction from the historic facade. The original residential entry at the east side of the facade, including the decorative cast stone surround with the number “15”, would become the main entry for all residential tenants. Although the retail storefronts would most likely be combined into a single space, the original design of two separate storefronts and entries would be retained.
We propose to clad the newly constructed volumes primarily with fiber cement panels, which are flat panels made from reinforced cement. These panels would be grey in color and would be installed as an open-jointed rainscreen, so that the composition of the panels and the open joints would create shadow lines, giving the elevations a greater sense of texture, scale and proportion.
The east elevation [facing Main Street], being a zero-lot-line wall with the potential for future adjacent new construction, has been designed without any glazing, as has the rear north elevation, which is directly opposite another blank wall of the Salvation Army only a few feet opposite.
The primary new facade is the west elevation, which is where the new units will obtain a majority of their daylight. This facade has been designed with punched windows, which are intended to be sympathetic in scale to prevalent historical typologies. Many of the windows will be somewhat recessed, which will improve shading from solar gain and give the facade a greater sense of depth.
The building generally complies with the massing prescribed by the Green Code: a retail space with a 15 foot clear height; a three story structure with a maximum roof elevation of 44 feet (although this elevation is not reached until the building is well back from Allen Street), parapets that rise above the roof in some instances to a maximum of 48 feet, and a small decorative feature at the rear of the building which rises to a height of 58 feet and acts as a clerestory window to bring daylight into the main stair within.
Wong has been seeking to rehab or redevelop the property since purchasing it and neighboring 19 Allen Street last year. Sokol’s initial plan to redevelop and expand the building by adding a third floor was rejected by the National Park Service and thus did not qualify for the historic preservation tax credits needed for the project to pencil out.