Revised Elmwood Ave project stirs heated meeting

Ciminelli announced changes to its development
Posted at 9:40 PM, Jan 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-12 21:44:49-05

Revised plans for a new mixed-use development in the Elmwood Village were the center of a heated meeting with the Preservation Board.

Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation presented plans to alter the aesthetic, size and design of its project, dubbed Arbor + Reverie, in the Bidwell-Elmwood-Potomac area.

About 100 people were at the meeting to hear from the developer.

Perhaps the most notable revision is the mixed-use development's height.  Until the City passed its new zoning laws, known as The Green Code, Ciminelli had intended to build two five-story properties.   At Thursday's meeting, Ciminelli developers announced it would downsize the larger of the two buildings by one full story.

"With every step in planning this project, we've had the Green Code in mind.  As the Green Code process has evolved, so too has the Arbor + Reverie project, which is now top-line compliant with the new code," said Adam Walters, Partner, Phillips Lytle LLP.

In addition, Ciminelli said it would alter the exterior of the buildings by using more traditional materials, such as brick, to evoke the context of the neighborhood. 

The Arbor + Reverie development has been rife with opposition from residents who do not want the existing 11 buildings on the historic Elmwood Avenue demolished to make room for a modern building that would consist of apartments, condominiums, and business space. 

Not everyone is on board.

"As it stands right now we are in danger of losing too much historic fabric in such a stable and important neighborhood," said Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. "This project proposes to demolish 11 buildings in the heart of the Elmwood Village."

Critics also want to make sure that the proposal is being evaluated properly under the newly approved Green Code.

"Clearly, everyone is struggling a little bit with this project.  What is the proper process?  We disagree with the developers that [say] they are currently following the proper process, and we think this project needs to go before site plan review before it gets issued any demolition permits," Fisher said.

No vote was taken on the project. A public hearing on the development is expected to take place within the next two weeks. 

On Wednesday, community members rallied at the corner of Bidwell Parkway and Elmwood Avenue to protest the demolition of the existing structures.  Assemblyman Sean Ryan was in attendance.