John Daly already is engineering a turnaround for a stretch of Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo.
Now, he and his architectural and engineering firm, Trautman Associates, are taking aim at a project in downtown Buffalo, around the corner from their Franklin Street offices in the Cathedral Tower.
Trautman is proposing to renovate the four-story masonry building at 130 Pearl St., formerly home to Stewart Title Insurance Co. The vacant 13,996-square-foot former office building – which Trautman acquired from Stewart in August 2020 for $660,000 – would become a mix of 12 apartments on the basement and upper two floors, plus first-floor commercial space.
Stewart has relocated to the Ellicott Square Building at 295 Main St.
The $2.5 million venture would revive the 1916-era gray marble and white terra cotta building south of Hodgson Russ’ Guaranty Building at Church Street, and across Pearl from St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and Cathedral Park.
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By re-creating a “vibrant commercial storefront,” it would “bring life back to this section of Pearl Street,” Trautman Principal Timothy Rider wrote in a letter to the Buffalo Preservation Board, which will review the proposal next week.
“It should be a nice historic preservation job,” Daly said. “It’s sitting between two historic buildings.”
As part of the historic restoration – which is being designed to qualify for state and federal tax credits – plans call for removing the existing but non-historic first-floor infill of green marble, horizontal windows and a single door, and restoring the original terra cotta and street-level glass storefront.
Non-historic windows will be replaced with Chicago-style windows and transoms, with textured architectural glass where appropriate. The brickwork will be repaired and repointed. And a concrete masonry unit infill in back will be removed, while a three-story stair tower will be converted into living space for apartments – with new windows, finishes, and paint, and an open-air balcony at the third floor. The stairs will be relocated.
Crews will also add private outdoor patios and concrete balconies in back of the light court for each of the west-facing apartments, and will construct a roof-level penthouse for mechanical equipment along with resident access to a new roof terrace. The rooftop changes will not be visible from the street.
Inside, meanwhile, crews will replace the staircase, marble wainscot and pressed metal ceilings to match historical details. And the apartments will benefit from large windows and tall ceilings, providing “day-lit loft-type living spaces,” according to Trautman’s website.
“We’re happy to be restoring this gem and putting back an important piece of Buffalo’s urban fabric,” the firm wrote on its website.
“The residential units and roof terrace above will have some of the best views of historic Buffalo architecture,” Rider wrote, citing St. Paul’s, Guaranty and One M&T Plaza. And the proximity to Canalside and area restaurants “will make 130 Pearl a popular destination, enhancing the neighborhood’s urban fabric and quality of life,” he added.
Besides Preservation Board, the project also requires Planning Board approval.
This is the latest redevelopment effort by Daly, who – along with his wife, Ruthann – have been investing heavily along Hertel at both Parkside and Parker avenues. They purchased a former gas station at 1585 Hertel, demolished it, and put up a $7 million apartment building at Hertel and Parkside. The five-story building, completed in July 2021 after an extensive environmental site cleanup, has 34 apartments and three first-floor storefronts.
The Dalys – through their O’Dalaigh Real Estate – also previously purchased the Del Denby Tavern at 1553 Hertel, the former IconZ Elite Barber Spa at 1598 Hertel, a building at 1854-1862 that houses JP Checker’s and Daily Planet Coffee, and most recently the former C-Me Marine Sales building at 1850 Hertel, an adjacent parking lot at 1845 Hertel, and a house at 1 Winston Road.
All told, they have spent $1.33 million, and now control the entire north side of Hertel from Winston Road to Parker, as well as the southern corners of Hertel and Parkside.
“I love the experience we had on Hertel,” Daly said. “We’re just trying to envision what we might be able to do there.”