“CORE – BNMC: Apartment Building Set for 19 North”

A lightning strike may have forced the demolition of a former mansion on North Street but the owner hasn’t given up on the Allentown parcel.

Ben Obletz, president of First Amherst Development Group, wants to construct a four-story, 40-unit apartment complex to be called Nineteen North on the now-vacant property.

He continues to fine-tune the project with a development team that includes Hamilton Houston Lownie architects Kenneth Riter and Matt Meier.

Located on North Street between the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the Allentown/Elmwood Village districts, Obletz said there is more than enough demand to fill the apartments.

“The medical campus will be a big feeder but Allentown is equally hot,” he said. “This project positions us well, especially in that part of Buffalo.”

Plans call for a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments on the top three floors.

The first floor will be used for indoor parking for tenants.

The units will range in size from 900 to 1,400 square feet, according to Obletz.

First Amherst Development acquired the property in 2006 and planned to renovate the early 1900s, “Second Empire”-designed mansion into market-rate apartments. But the building was devastated by a July 2014 lightning strike.

Damage was so extensive that Obletz had no option other than to demolish the property. For many years, radio stations WEBR and WNED-AM were in the mansion.

“We really had to start over,” he said.

Obletz has a track record of bringing older buildings back to life.

Most recently, he took a series of vacant buildings at the corner of Main and Virginia streets and turned them into the Granite Works.

He did the same with the former Elk Street Food Terminal, which was transformed into the Elk Street Lofts.

Last year he completed a 25-unit expansion of Elk Street Lofts, bringing his total to 96 units in that residential complex.

Obletz said Nineteen North is expected to cost between $8 million and $9 million.

The project will be privately financed.

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