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City approves $750,000 loan for Main-Cathedral Building project


Developer Tony Kissling's $12 million project to renovate the Main-Cathedral Building in downtown Buffalo collected $750,000 in added financing Tuesday, as the city approved a loan from its Buffalo Building Reuse Loan Program.

The Buffalo Urban Development Corp., the city agency that administers the program, selected Kissling Interests LLC's building at 298 Main St. as an example of the kind of adaptive reuse project that the city wants to support and encourage downtown.

The loan program, funded by $3 million in "city-by-city" money from the state, is designed to assist redevelopment projects. Officials had issued a request for proposals earlier this year, seeking potential projects for financing.

"This project is precisely the type of project that I had in mind when I called for the creation of the Buffalo Building Reuse Project," said Mayor Byron W. Brown, who committed nearly $12 million over three years as he also called for adding 1,300 new housing units in the city by 2018.

"This project will transform vacant and underutilized office space into 'live-work' residential units that will appeal to the influx of employees entering downtown over the next few years."

Kissling acquired the 98,948-square-foot, 11-story office building in 2001 for $2.6 million, but lost major tenant Damon Morey LLP to Uniland Development Co.'s new Avant Building, leaving much of the Main-Cathedral building vacant. He has been unable to fill the entire structure, so he wants to turn the top five floors of unused office space - seventh through the penthouse - into 26 apartments, including two rooftop garden apartments.

The units will range in size from 1,000 square feet to 1,600 square feet, and feature granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, energy-efficient lighting, laundry machines, valet parking and concierge services. The building's first-floor lobby and common areas also will be renovated. The first six floors will remain office space, with some additional retail on the first floor. Kissling also plans to renovate the elevators, put on a new roof and bring the building up to code, including a new HVAC system.

"This project brings more residents to the downtown core," said BUDC's downtown development coordinator and manager, Brandye Merriweather. "Its Main Street location and adjacency to public transit also made this project a clear frontrunner for BBRP funding."

The project, which was designed by Carmina Wood Morris and seeks silver LEED status, is supposed to start during the week of Jan. 12, and will be finished in about a year, Kissling said. Besides the city loan, Kissling also has a $7 million first mortgage from M&T Bank Corp., but still expects to put in more than $5 million of his own capital. "I've got to pull a lot of money out," he said. "It took years to put the pieces together, but now we're moving ahead."