The towering malt house and grain elevator at 50 Elk St. stood empty for about 30 years after the Buffalo Malting Corp. closed.
“There were people actually living there,” Jerry Young, partner with Young and Wright Architectural said. “It was known as a place you could go and crash.”
Now, the statuesque building is no longer crumbling from years of neglect- it has a new life as the Silos at Elk Street, a mixed-use building with office space, residential space, and a space for a potential brewery or restaurant.
The renovations weren’t easy- the building was filled with malting equipment, and much of the masonry was crumbling.
“In some portions of the building, there were no floors whatsoever,” Shawn Wright, partner with Young and Wright said .
It took about two years and $3.2 million to get the building to its current state. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held there last week.
“There’s been a good response from the neighborhood that we did the right thing,” Wright said.
Young and Wright purchased the building in 2015 at a tax auction for $5,000.
They worked to restore it with help from the state Historic Preservation Office.
“As architects, we found it very interesting,” Wright said. “We did research to find out what these things were used for- we took a lot of pride in putting our office inside.’
Much of the building’s interior incorporates both the malt house’s original function and some of the graffiti it accumulated while it was abandoned.
Young and Wright have transformed a former malt tanker- large enough to fit six people inside- into a “Think Tank” in the middle of their office in the building.
In what now is the firm’s office space, some graffiti remains on the brick, and a large portrait of a woman painted on the building’s fifth floor is featured as wall art.
The original building at the site dates back to the 1890s. The rest was built in 1926 by the Kreiner Malt Company, Young said.
“They started to be very successful after Prohibition,” Young said.
Kreiner Malt closed in 1971.
The history of the Kreiner Malt Company is documented in a miniature museum on the building’s first floor, complete with an original malt recipe.
Young and Wright are in the process of renovating several areas of the buildings into apartments, with leases starting later this year.
Plans for the campus’s drying building include five floors of residences, including efficiency apartments and one-bedrooms .
The first floor of the main building has a large space that they hope to lease as a space for a new brewery, distillery, or restaurant.
The firm also plans to renovate the silos- in five years, when the state Historic Preservation Office will allow it.
“We’re taking ideas,” Wright said.