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Elmwood Village residents spar with Douglas Development over changes to Bidwell block redevelopment

Douglas Development is looking for another height variance for the Bidwell/Elmwood block project, much to the chagrin of neighborhood residents.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Douglas Development is looking to alter its original plans for its Bidwell/Elmwood block redevelopment. 

Originally, the plans called for a four-story redevelopment of the block that would house 34 apartments. Retail was also part of the plan and dedicated parking wasn't on the table. 

But now for various reasons, the main being the economics of the project, Douglas Development is seeking a variance from the planning board to add a fifth floor and expand to 50 units.

This would add an additional seven feet of height to the proposed building. 

The additional units mean more tenants, which to the residents in the surrounding neighborhood means less parking. 

"I'm concerned about this project, this neighborhood in this community, to really seriously look us into the face and try to explain your way out that parking is not going to be an issue is not reality," said one man in attendance. "If an elephant could fly he'd be the biggest burden in the jungle."

Many of the meeting's two dozen or so attendees expressed similar parking concerns.

Douglas Development has proposed that tenants of the new 50-unit project could park at the Richardson Complex, also controlled by Douglas, and have access to a 24/7 shuttle. 

Not everyone thought parking would be a calamity. Another resident did point out that the Buffalo Green Code calls for developers to consider the residential area prior to design, so things like parking lots aren't added. 

"Are there going to be 50 people with no cars, no? But are there going to be 50 people with cars, probably not that many? There is real parking, and the whole purpose of the green code was to say use the land appropriately."

Douglas Development Vice President Paul Millstein grew frustrated during the meeting at times, often when he wouldn't be given the time to answer a barrage of questions. 

"Can we fix the parking problem in Elmwood Village? No." Millstein said. "Are we going to try? No. We're going to just try to build a really great project."

The agenda for the January 17th planning board meeting does not have this project listed on the agenda. 

"We're asking for an additional seven feet, and I think good behavior should be rewarded," Millstein said. "We're a good neighbor, we're a good resident, we clean our trash, we keep our buildings immaculate, we pay our taxes, it's seven feet."

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