“They don’t build them like they used to” is one of the top reasons to repurpose existing buildings when they have outlived their initial mission. The Otis Mattress factory at 170 Florida Street in the Hamlin Park area was built in 1911 and was added on to three times as the manufacturing business grew. After the Otis factory moved their still thriving operation to a larger site, the original reinforced concrete building and its brick and steel frame additions housed manufacturing firms, was vacant for about ten years and then used for storage until the Buffalo Mattress Factory Development Team purchased it for an adaptive reuse purpose.
It’s the first development project together for the Architect Karl Frizlen and Attorney Jason Yots. They are dedicated to preservation of historic buildings and boosting economic renewal in neighborhoods. The building will soon be home to 34 tenants in the individually designed apartment units as well as Yot’s Preservation Studios.
Equally as important as the quality of the building is the community it is embedded in. A strong building in a strong community make for a great project. According to preservationist Tom Yots, “preservation is an economic development tool, historic tax credits help to redevelop communities and celebrate history”. On Saturday, December 2nd, the development group opened the doors to the nearly finished building to welcome neighbors in to see the renovation and express gratitude.
According to Jason Yots, head of Preservation Studios, “the neighbors have been patient and gracious throughout the construction process and we are appreciative.” Neighbors who came to see the nearly complete historic rehabilitation included Anita Guess, Chairperson of the Housing Committee in the Hamlin Park Community Association and Taxpayers. The Mattress Factory project was referred to as a model project for development on the East Side due to the level of community engagement.
Jason Yots identified the fundamentals of community engagement: outreach, facility access, beautification and work opportunities. The neighborhood is organized and meets regularly, providing a venue for communication and ongoing engagement. The Hamlin Park Community Association and Taxpayers, headed by Stephanie Barbara Geter will be meeting later this month at Canisius College to address the 2018 strategic plan for the Hamlin Park, Cold Springs and Trinidad communities on the Eastside. According to Third Estate Ventures Founder, Joseph Greco, the Association is “more than capable of organizing all interested entities and creating constructive change identified via the strategic plan process”.
Architect/developer Karl Frizlen spoke of the project: “the strength and endurance of the Mattress Factory lies in the repurposing of an old building with strong bones and the involvement and resulting acceptance of the community.” That’s the approach of this development team and they have only just begun.