By Jonathan D. Epstein | News Business Reporter
A local developer is taking over a planned project to build a three-story mixed-use retail and residential building across from Williamsville South High School after agreeing to buy the property from the out-of-town owner who first proposed the construction.
Dr. Lawrence N. Teruel, an ear-nose-throat physician from Sierra Vista, Ariz., whose father had owned the land for years, is now selling the 1.7-acre property at 5933 Main St. to Bevilacqua Development LP. The deal, which was signed within the last month, is not yet final, so the purchase price is not available.
Teruel had already planned to demolish the existing one-story dilapidated white retail strip building on the site and replace it with a new three-story brick complex with 20 apartments and first-floor retail space. Williamsville’s Planning and Architectural Review Board and the Amherst Planning Board already approved it last year.
Now, Jonathan Bevilacqua and his team will take over that effort, although they have to seek village site-plan and architectural design approval again because too much time has elapsed since the initial go-ahead from the village.
The project had been slated for discussion by the village Oct. 5, but was postponed until Nov. 2 because of last-minute notification to the board that the developer planned to raise the ceiling height from 8 feet to 10 feet. The developer also plans to seek tax breaks from the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.
“The location should be good. It’s a long-term payback,” Bevilacqua said. “The traffic counts in the village are extremely high. It’s a very visible site, across from the high school.”
The 1.7-acre site sits at the corner of Main and Hirschfield, facing the school and in front of a residential neighborhood. The building, now vacant, was long occupied by popular consignment shops and similar retail stores, but that will be replaced by the new 57,000-square-foot L-shaped structure – about 19,000 square feet per floor. “The current site is a total eyesore,” Bevilacqua said.
Plans call for primarily two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floor of the new brick building, along with two one-bedroom units, with a size ranging from 1,200 square feet to 1,700 square feet.
The high-end units will include outdoor balconies, luxury finishes, hardwood floors, 10-foot ceilings, marble bathroom tile, high-end cabinetry and light fixtures and either marble or quartz countertops, the developer said.
No tenants are in place yet for the first-floor retail space, but the surrounding area “fits the right demographic that a lot of local and national retailers are going after,” Bevilacqua said.
Rental prices have not been set, but “it’s an expensive building to build,” Bevilacqua said, citing the presence of utility poles and lines, the proximity of bedrock underneath, and the extensive masonry, glass and Dryvit work that will be involved. “This is not a greenfield development, where it’s a raw piece of dirt and you’re going for ground-up construction,” he said. “There’s demolition to get this site ready to be built on.”
He estimated the total cost at about $9 million. “We are still evaluating this project financially, given other issues with the site,” he said. “There will be a lot of challenges to make this thing work.”
If approved, the project will likely start next year and finish by next fall.
This is the third recent mixed-use project that Bevilacqua has completed, involving apartments. The developer teamed up with Ellicott Development Co. for the Exchange Apartments on Sweet Home Road, near University at Buffalo’s North Campus, with 42 high-end apartments. It also built The Commons on North French, near Transit Road, with 12 high-end apartments above first-floor retail stores.
The firm is now working the early stages of another development, after buying an acre of land on Transit Road in Clarence, across from the Transit Valley County Club, from the Voelkl family. Details have not been finalized or submitted to the town, but Bevilacqua preliminarily envisions another retail plaza, with five to seven storefronts, in a 9,000-square-foot single-story strip.