Next Larkin project shifts into gear

October 14, 2010 Updated Oct 14, 2010 at 7:48 AM EDT

By Business First of Buffalo - by James Fink

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October 14, 2010 Updated Oct 14, 2010 at 7:48 AM EDT

Next Larkin project shifts into gear
Business First of Buffalo - by James Fink

The development group that wants to embark on a $50 million Larkin District project has officially taken control of the building that is central to its plans.

Seneca Larkin 701 LLC, a group headed by local businessman Gordon Reger, purchased the sprawling 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse at 701 Seneca Street. According to documents filed in the Erie County Clerk's office, Seneca Larkin 701 LLC paid $3.1 million for the building, buying it from Seneca Industrial Associates, an investment group headed by developer Alan Dewart. Dewart's group has owned the complex for more than three decades.

Reger's group, Seneca Exchange Larkin Partners, is also buying a neighboring four-story, 120,000-square-foot building. The main 701 Seneca Street building will likely be renovated into a mixed-use project, while the adjoining structure is being eyed for residential uses, Reger said.

The work will be done in phases, likely during a five-year period, Reger said.

Preliminary work on both is expected to start this fall.

Armed with a $5 million allocation from the federal Recovery Zone bonds program, the project has necessary seed money to secure financing through a combination of public- and private-sector sources. The bulk of the project will be privately financed, although Reger said he may approach the Erie County Industrial Development Agency about incentives offered through its adaptive reuse program.

The dual projects are coming on the heels of several undertaken by Buffalo businessman Howard Zemsky, who has transformed former Larkin Soap Co. buildings into Class A office facilities.

Reger's partners include Buffalo businessmen James Cornell and Peter Krog, who heads Krog Corp., one of the region's largest development firms.

Seneca Exchange Larkin Partners' project is a further bridge between downtown Buffalo and the still-emerging Larkin District, whose development seeds were planted by Zemsky.

Reger said the 701 Seneca St. building, an eight-story structure, that was built in early 1900s as part of the Larkin complex, will be renovated to attract a variety of commercial and office tenants. The building is about 60 percent leased with a mix of tenants. All will be asked to stay, Reger added.

One of the building's biggest selling points is its wide-open floor plates, some of which approach 170,000 square feet. That makes the building attractive to call-center operations and others looking for open-span space.

Reger said while renovation work will be starting this fall on the 701 Seneca St. building, preliminary renovations on the 635 Seneca St. building will likely be also starting.

Reger said the current plans are to renovate the building, which was also part of the original Larkin complex, into a loft-style apartment complex with anywhere from 50 to 60 units, depending on final architectural drawings. The project will include interior parking for the building's residents and a small sliver of commercial space on its first floor.

Pending various Buffalo approvals, the first phase of the dual projects could be completed within the next year.

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