Stamp of Approval for two Buffalo Projects

January 30, 2013 Updated Jan 30, 2013 at 1:25 PM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

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Stamp of Approval for two Buffalo Projects

January 30, 2013 Updated Jan 30, 2013 at 1:25 PM EDT

The Buffalo Planning Board has approved a pair of transformative projects in the city's central business district.

The board gave the green light to proposal by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. to develop the East Canal Park, an urban park located between Washington and Main streets just south of the One Canalside Building. The park replaces the second phase of replica Erie Canal waterways that was originally slated for the block.

"It puts it on the fast track for us," said Robert Gioia, ECHDC chairman. "This is the beginning of the development of what should be a very popular spot in downtown Buffalo."

Gioia said the East Canal Park, which was first unveiled last fall by the ECHDC, will go to bid in March with the contract expected to be awarded by April.

Gioia hopes the park will be ready to coincide with the opening of Benderson Development's One Canalside Building this winter. One Canalside is being anchored by a 96-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel and the offices of the Phillips Lytle law firm.

"The two projects really intersect with each other," Gioia said.

At the same time, the planning board also formally approved plans by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.'s $100 million Conventus medical office building.

Conventus will house UB MD offices and outpatient surgery services for the John R. Oishei Foundation Children's Hospital when it opens in two years.

Preliminary site and remediation work is already underway.

"We needed their blessing," said Denise Juron-Borgese, Ciminelli director of development and planning. "It was very important that we got this approval."

Next up for the project, located at Main and High streets, is approval of an incentive package from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency at its Feb. 19 meeting and a height variance from the Buffalo Zoning Board, also due next month.

The 127-foot tall building includes seven stories plus two levels of underground parking.

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