A divisive downtown Auburn building has been purchased, and will get new tenants and possibly a new look as a result.
The concrete building at 63 Genesee St., formerly a branch of Marine Midland and HSBC banks, has been purchased by KyleCroft Development. Assessed at $1,094,000, the building was sold to KyleCroft by First Niagara Bank for $240,000, according to Cayuga County property records.
Earlier this summer, KyleCroft also purchased the adjacent 41-53 Genesee St. buildings, known as the Nolan block because it was the home of Nolan's Shoes until 2002. (Pawn King now stands where the neighboring Nolan's Sporting Goods did until 2004.)
Grant Kyle, of KyleCroft, said Monday that the concrete bank purchase complements that of the Nolan block. The 27 parking spaces behind the former will be usable by tenants of the latter, where KyleCroft plans to develop 14-16 upper-story apartment units above street-level commercial spaces.
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The bank, however, will be strictly commercial in use, Kyle said, and leases with tenants are being finalized.
Kyle added that KyleCroft's ownership of both properties could benefit the city of Auburn, which has been eyeing the area behind them for a regional public market, downtown welcome center and Prison City Brewing production facility. The city recently applied for a grant from the Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to begin planning the project, which could also see the closure of the stretch of Loop Road separating the properties from the Owasco River.
Unlike First Niagara, Kyle said, KyleCroft would enthusiastically partner with the city to help realize the project.
"I think it's going to make it easier for the city to accomplish some of their plans," he said.
Kyle said the concrete building is in "really great shape," and that HSBC installed a new roof shortly before First Niagara acquired the bank's upstate New York operations in 2012. Closed since that time, the building requires little structural work outside of some bathrooms whose accessibility needs to be brought up to code.
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KyleCroft is also planning to work on the look of the building, an example of the mid-20th-century style of architecture known as brutalism. Named after "béton brut" — French for "raw concrete" — the style has been called cold and unimaginative, and the Auburn bank is colloquially known as "the bunker."
Possible aesthetic improvements to the building include landscaping and coloring through lighting, though Kyle ruled out painting it. An art history major who focused in architecture, he appreciates the style — but he also understands why people find it unattractive as it presently stands at the corner of Genesee and North streets.
"I love it. I just think it needs to be incorporated better into downtown," he said. "It has value to it. It just needs a little love."