504 Elmwood Lofts & Retail

Buffalo, New York

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The project was initiated by three members of the Community's Elmwood Village Association with the intent to eliminate urban blight in the 500 block of Elmwood Avenue, which experienced high vacancy, disinvestment, and erosion of property values. A building in disrepair in mid-block was selected and was replaced with a much higher density mixed-use residential/retail building. It was also important to create a pedestrian link from the retail corridor to an existing municipal parking lot behind the property.

The building program called for maximizing the use of the very small and narrow city lot (40' x 88') The design challenge was to accommodate a 3,500 square-foot retail store and nine apartments and lofts on 3,500 square feet of land area.

The building was placed up to the sidewalk along Elmwood Avenue and the rear public parking lot. A public alley along the southern property line serves as the main entrance for the nine apartments and lofts located on two floors above the ground floor retail space. The residential staircase tower is flooded with southern daylight and exposed to public view in order to provide more safety and more 'eyes' on the public alley.

The retail's ground floor space is extended into the basement with a generous staircase opening located at the southern storefront, affording the basement to be flooded with daylight and transparent to window shoppers.

Daylight has been strategically used throughout to maximize the quality of space and to counteract the spacial limitations. Large triangular windows at the gable end of the lofts and clerestory windows on the roof are located in strategic locations to provide daylight deep into the core of the building. The mezzanine floor in the lofts overlooks the living and dining areas and in addition provides views onto vibrant Elmwood Avenue for people watching.

The building's facade complements the eclectic character of the street without imitating the significant buildings in the neighborhood. It blends in seamlessly yet it is a building with all modern comforts, highly energy-efficient, highly functional and contributing and enhancing the street life and vitality of the block.

The 500 block has seen its share of urban decay and suburbanization with the intrusion of car-oriented single-use single-story box buildings serving a very stable and desired older residential neighborhood with increasing property values. It is the intent of the developers to stop the outmigration of business in the retail corridor and create a model for responsible and sustainable small neighborhood development.