Severyn Development’s latest project, Cold Spring Heights, will be a one-of-a-kind historic restoration of seven duplexes on Florida Street that will create 14 units of rental housing, slated for completion this summer.
The development team, comprised of brothers Alex and William Severyn and their partner Charles Mendolera, has been working closely with Preservation Studios to maintain the historic integrity of these unique properties while they restore their functionality as multi-family homes and revitalize a long vacant corner of the neighborhood.
This project – the company’s first historic renovation on Buffalo’s East Side – carries some sentimental value for the Severyn brothers, who began their venture into residential real estate as students at Canisius College. It was then, in 2009, that they first laid eyes on the Florida Street duplexes.
“My brother and I were commuters from Lancaster – where we grew up,” Alex Severyn said. “After class, we would just try to learn more about where we were. And I remember these duplexes – we always used to walk by them. They looked decently maintained on the outside, but we weren’t aware that they were vacant.”
What really struck them about the homes was how architecturally unique and well built they were. “I used to look at them and think this is the exact same housing stock as the Elmwood Village. They’re built the same, they have a bunch of original character, yet no one’s taking care of them and no one’s really paying attention to this neighborhood,” he said.
After establishing themselves as developers of single family homes in other areas of the city – investing in parts of the West Side, Elmwood Village, and many of the streets near Florida, including Linwood, Oxford, Horton and Lafayette – an opportunity arose for them to buy the Florida Street duplexes.
“Last February, Preservation Studios, who did The Mattress Factory down the street, got a call from Canisius saying they were thinking about selling them,” Alex said. “They called us in to see if we wanted to partner.”
Immediately after buying the duplexes, Alex was on site throughout the summer starting cleanup. He had the opportunity to meet several of the neighbors who were excited to learn that the boarded up homes might have life in them once again.
“Everybody wanted them restored, and said ‘we’ve been staring at these for 15 years wishing somebody would save them,’ and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said.
As they were completing the historic review to apply for historic landmark status and pursue tax credits to rehab the properties, the brothers learned more of the backstory on the unique masonry facades of the duplexes, designed by George J. Metzger and built by Berrick & Sons in 1901.
“What they wanted to create was a group of samples, so these were essentially the first Buffalo Home Show,” Alex said. “If you take a look at them, a lot of people don’t notice that every single facade is different. They specifically made each one different to show off their masonry skills, but what’s interesting is three-quarters of the way back in the alleyways of each one, it changes to regular brick. It seems like it was one of the first projects that was suburban in nature back then – similar to what you see in the suburbs now where everyone puts stone or brick on the façade and then everything’s vinyl wrapped.”
The renovations included gutting and rebuilding the homes completely, with attention focused on maintaining the historic details. Severyn is working with interior designer Alisa Gasz to ensure the interior layouts and features are historically accurate. Many of the units have original doors, hardwood floors, fireplaces and mantels, and second story railings. For those components that couldn’t be restored from original materials, the team is rebuilding them, including a $500,000 investment in windows and reworking the electrical features.
We weren’t going to just start netting a million recessed lights,” Alex said. “We were really going after the historic charm of the buildings by adding wall sconces and more period-specific light fixtures. The bathrooms are going to have what’s called penny tile or hexagon tile on the floor to match what would have been there. We are trying to do everything to a T of how it would have been. It’s going to be like taking a step back in time.
For the exterior, Severyn is working with Abraxas Construction to restore the masonry and the front porches, including rebuilding the second story porches that had been removed. Because the brick and mortar detail is so significant to the duplexes’ historic value, they wanted to ensure that its craftsmanship was maintained.
“We do a lot of new construction in both the city and the suburbs and when I look at the way that these things are built, they’re impossible to recreate today. So it’s important that we can preserve them,” Alex said.
Upon completion, the project will yield 14 three-bedroom, one-bathroom units, each with their own parking area, entrance, and outdoor space. Each unit will have its own laundry, air conditioning, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors. Units are priced at $1450 per month and there is already a waitlist. The developers are hoping the duplexes will appeal to tenants who are interested in long-term occupancy, to maintain the integrity and stability of the surrounding neighborhood which is primarily composed of owner-occupants who have lived there for many years.
“We’ve had a great response from the category of public servants – nurses, firefighters, new police officers – people who have to live in the city but have been priced out,” Alex said. “We don’t want these to be options for those who aren’t going to be here long term, we really want these to be more like homes for tenants. I think it’s a great neighborhood and it has a lot of potential. I want people to be proud of where they live and I think this is the place where people can do that.”
To learn more about the Cold Spring Heights duplexes, call 716-359-1155 or visit www.offeradvantage.co where you can join the mailing list to receive notifications for viewing availability this Spring. You can also follow their progress on Instagram @ColdSpringHeights.