BUFFALO, NY – Plans were publicly unveiled Wednesday night for the re-development of a parcel with frontage on both Inwood Place and Potomac Avenue, offering new housing on a smaller scale than a project previously rejected by neighbors.
Karl Frizlen, who has successfully developed several commercial and residential projects in the city, sought to replace an aged house and an auto repair garage behind it at 794 Potomac, with a 26 unit apartment complex with underground parking.
However, amid staunch neighborhood opposition, his request for a variance to build was rejected by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals last year.
“There was near unanimous opposition from the residents of Inwood and Potomac," said Delaware District Common Council member Joel Feroleto. “And the developer (Frizlen) has since walked away from the project."
Enter Bart Melchiorre, who describes himself as a friend of the property owner Dennis Barry, and who seeks to develop the parcel in a manner which he hopes neighbors will find more appealing.
According to Melchiorre, his proposal would be to build eleven upscale townhouses on the site.
However, if Melchiorre intends to pursue the plan, time is of the essence.
“There is a foreclosure auction on that property coming up in April,” noted Feroleto. “They would certainly have to move fast on this.”
There was also another potential fly in the ointment, when preservationists considered seeking landmark status for the home standing on the site, contending that it held historic significance.
“If it were designated a local landmark, that means the building in the center of the property would remain there in perpetuity,” noted Feroleto.
Among other things, preservationists asserted that the home built in 1861 was owned by John Lord, who sparked a national conversation on religion’s role in slavery by his sermon on support of the Fugitive Slave Act. Beyond that, they note it’s the only example of a farmhouse left in the neighborhood...while going so far as to contend that actress Tallulah Bankhead reportedly once visited the home when it was owned by a film critic for the Buffalo News in the 1940s.
Melchiorre disputed those points, by saying that while the home was once part of Lord’s estate, he never actually lived in it and that “no known event of any historical significance has occurred here.”
According to Feroleto, however, while the Preservation Board entertained comments, “the board is not proceeding with landmark status for this property,”