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Brownfield + NYS incentives = new 500 Seneca Street

Savarino Companies

The name "brownfield" may not sound appealing. In fact, New York State offers incentives to clean up contaminated properties. One successful project has reopened after sitting vacant for nearly a decade.  

The former F.N. Burt building near Buffalo's Larkinville neighborhood officially reopened in February as 500 Seneca Street. Development partner Sam Savarino said adaptive reuse projects are challenging in the best of times.  

"The building had two strikes against it: being in the neighborhood it was in and the fact that it was contaminated. So without programs like the Brownfield Tax Credit program and, in the case of this building, the Historic Tax Credit program because it is a landmark building, without those types of programs it simply wouldn't happen," Savarino said.

The developers invested nearly $44 million in the old factory, which is now 100 percent occupied. There are 97 residential units, 170,000 square feet of Class A office space and what Savarino calls other unusual tenants.  

"There's an operating distillery. There'll be a full-service wine cellar and wine tasting area with a sommelier on premises. There's K-9 Day Care, a full fitness center and training facility, bike care and storage facility and a number of other tenants," Savarino said.

While incentives may be available, Savarino said it is up to investors and developers to find a qualifying project and take advantage of them. He said he is no different than other local developers, who have a heart in Buffalo and remember the city's older neighborhoods.   
"A building like that has a story. It has value and it is much better to see it preserved. So where 1,500 people used to work, years ago, now there's 800 people working there and 250 people living there. And that's good to see," Savarino said.   

Next up, Savarino is putting the finishing touches on another brownfield. The site of the old Erie Freighthouse on Ohio Street is being redeveloped into a 78-unit luxury apartment building known as Buffalo River Landing.  

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