When it comes to West Side real estate investment opportunities, many of the low-hanging fruits have already been harvested. But for visionary investors, there is still plenty of room to play. Take Fritz Abell, for example. In recent years, Fritz has successfully completed a number of restoration works in the Five Point neighborhood that few dared have dared to tackle. But with each passing success, he or she gains invaluable insight and knowledge into the delicate landscape — the properties, the inhabitants, and the emerging economic ecosystem.
Now Fritz is heading to his newest project – his fifth project, after success stories that are sensational. Treatment house appendix. This is not the last project for the weak of heart. Along with his business partner Matt Shaab (an immigrant who now lives in New York), Fritz received 549 Utica West in 2019. He describes the facility as “an indeterminate building in front of a gas station that you never considered.”
But Fritz realized that this was a great thing for the Five Point neighborhood and the West Side in general. She also identified a first-floor commercial tenant – a sliced pizza shop and a wine bar called Extra Extra. The most unusual in this business is that the couple Bridget Murphy and Joy Pucciarelli decided to create a co-operative model of workers that would allow employees to contribute to the operation.
“We want the business to work and operate like a NY-style cutting shop,” Bridget said. “We want to change the way the restaurant works. It will be “infinite” – every full-time worker is paid with his or her benefits. We’ve seen insane inequalities in the industry with harassment of customers and employees at home. From the customer’s point of view, they don’t notice the difference, except that there will be no dotted line on the receipt. We also hire at least 75% of the neighborhood and we are 100% hopeful. This is a business for the neighborhood, on the edge of the neighborhood. We both live around the corner. ”
Back in 2019 I wrote about the new PUSH Buffalo Cooperative Academy, a 12-week course that teaches people about “building wealth and power for workers and communities that are typically excluded from the mainstream economy”. It turned out that the owners of Extra Extra had gone through this course, which prepared them for the construction of this unique restaurant concept in the Panj Nokta neighborhood.
In addition to gaining invaluable knowledge about the cooperative economy, Bridget and Joy also have extensive global experience in the food industry. It turns out that Fritz first met Bridget while working at Remedy House, while Joy cut her teeth at Jay’s Artisan Pizzeria in Kenmore. In addition to wanting to follow a different business model, the two men felt that there was a real need for a Five Point area for more food, because it was already full of coffee.
“Pizza-wise, it will be different,” Joey said. “These will be NY cakes – 20 large slices will be set up, while we will be making smaller round cakes inside the restaurant. We’ll also have “Brooklyn-style Gramma-style pies” that are more eye-catching and bold. There will be pilgrims too – I am currently baking rolls at Remedy House. We have shared dishes and salads and serve with soft ice cream. It will be sparse, affordable and welcoming … nothing too controversial. ”
“The beverage program will be similar to food, with non-alcoholic wines,” Bridget added. “I’m in Winkler and Samuels. Natural wines will be smaller producers – I would like to highlight female producers. “Pizza wines” will be young and fruity reds that you can drink them a little cold. They are always replaced at the expense of small manufacturers. We will also have a small program of cocktails and beer. ”
With the creation of the business model, Fritz approached the building, saying “… it was interesting and offers a challenging process,” he explained.
It turns out that around 1880 the building was a Rubik’s cube that needed to be solved. In fact, the previous owner reached a certain point in the recovery process and eventually gave up and sold it.
Why was this building so difficult? In some cases, around the end of the century, the city came up with a plan to expand Western Utica, which meant 549 Western Utica was partially “on the way”. But the plan never materialized, and the building sat idle, with a kind of “planning hexagon” placed on top of it. Surprisingly, when these kind of weird scenarios happen, it’s very difficult to get them right with City, so the last owner gets fired.
Luckily Fritz was stopped and got into trouble. “The building was converted into housing in the 1960s,” he explained. “To build and return to the business (first floor), we have to move the building, or cut five legs, which none of us wanted. My Architect (Seth Amman – Arch & Type) found some work permits issued in 1915, which were carried out after “street expansion is considered”, which allowed us to return the sign to business. And with the Green Code there is a clause if there is a building has used as a commercial, it can to return to commercial. And the General Council agreed, with the blessing of the neighbors who were involved in every step of the way. We actually got it green light – we are just waiting for the final licenses to start working. ”
As for the condition of the building, the previous owner pulled it to the corners. “It means that as long as it works, it will be my least difficult project,” Fritz said. [laughing]. “It will probably take 8-9 months to build. It needs everything, including the facade decoration, which matches the historical catalog, with a modern look and feel. ”
During a conversation with Fritz, it was clear that he had several boxes to check with this box. She wanted the owners to live in the neighborhood where they live. He sees a couple from the neighborhood hiring who they are. She was excited from the worker-business side. And he’s inspired to add more life and energy to the Five Points, while also being sensitive to residents ’concerns.
It seems like a win for all participants.
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