BUFFALO, NY – The city’s Preservation Board will meet Thursday to take up a controversial project in the Elmwood Village, where Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. proposes building a $40 million residential and retail complex near Bidwell Parkway.
Ciminelli hopes to obtain a demolition permit for eight structures which it seeks to raze to make way for its development.
A day in advance, neighborhood residents opposed to the plan staged a rally, lead by NYS Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo).
Opponents of the plan say it is too large, too modern, and does not fit into the existing character of their neighborhood.
They also express concern that the retail makeup of the Elmwood Strip will stray further from small, locally owned businesses in favor of national chain retailers and eateries.
“We have a really delicate fabric on Elmwood Avenue, which is among the most commercially successful and appealing neighborhoods in the city," said Ryan, who added that in his opinion, the buildings in the area where the project is proposed are not only occupied and in good shape, but unique and irreplaceable.
“This project will add new investment and new life to the community and add to the sustainability of the community long term,” said Dennis M. Penman, an Executive Vice President and Principal with Ciminelli.
Penman also noted the project seeks to incorporate many of the existing features of the current streetscape.
"The storefronts at the corner of Bidwell and Elmwood have always been in our preservation plan, and remain in them to this day,” he said.
But opponents are also upset that the project calls for several homes behind those building to be razed, to make way for apartment buildings which will be taller than the surrounding buildings.
GREEN CODE IMPACT:
In just over one month, a new set of zoning laws, referred to as the Green Code, will take effect in the city which may impact the project.
Formally adopted earlier this month, they put more emphasis on the form new structures take, and whether they fit into the existing surrounding.
"I think we're pretty comfortable that all the elements of the plan meet the green code,” said Penman.
However, when asked about that by WGRZ-TV, Brendan R. Mehaffy, the Executive Director of the City’s Office of Strategic Planning who lead the development Green Code, said “I think they (Ciminelli) have got some work to do.”
Mehaffy noted that the latest rendering of the project, which arrived at city hall on Wednesday and which appears to reduce a portion of the project from five stories to four, still appears not to comply with the Green Code.
“Residents in the community were very clear about their desire to see a three story standard and that's right in the Green Code,” said Mehaffy. “The Green Code sets a definite height for the site plan review at three stories, and if Ciminelli seeks to go higher they will have to seek a variance, which would be another step in the process.”
“We are going to have to seek some variances along the way,” confirmed Penman. "But at this point we're pretty comfortable we meet 99% of what the Green Code requires."