Opposition mounting against Elmwood Crossing

Residents post Restore our Neighborhood petition
Posted at 12:21 PM, Nov 25, 2019

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Opposition is mounting against planned redevelopment of the former Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo.

Construction underway for five-story building at Elmwood & Bryant.

Residents in the Elwmood Village have posted a “Restore our Neighborhood” petition. It calls to deny developers Sintra Real Estate and Ellicott Development. The petition claims the developers are working to “circumvent” requirements of the city’s Green Code for zoning of the project.

The petition calls on the Buffalo lawmakers to deny special zoning for a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

Opponents say they want to “protect the scale and character” of their neighborhood. The plan was tabled by the Common Council's legislation committee, but to voted out of committee on December 3rd. If that occurs, it could be voted on by the Buffalo Common Council December 10th.

Renderings of future five-story building.

"There's going to be a five-story battleship right here. That's all I keep visualizing. This huge monstrosity,” remarked Linda Gellman, resident.

Gellman has lived in the Elmwood Village for more than 20-years.

Gelmman and other homeowners are calling on the the common council to vote against the developers use of PUD, which allows developers to by-pass the traditional zoning process.

Construction is already underway for a five-story building at Elmwood and Bryant, even though the city green code allows for only three stories.

“All we can do as a development team is be honest and transparent and that is absolutely what we are doing here,” responded Amy Nagy, director of development, Sintra Real Estate.

Nagy insists the company is playing by the rules.

“We knew there was going to be some effort at compromising requiring and redeveloping this huge site with an active and engaged community, so that's what we are trying to do,” said Nagy.

Construction underway for five-story building at Elmwood & Bryant.

The Elmwood crossing calls for mixed use of residential, including condos, apartments, affordable housing and town houses. It would also feature retail and a grocery store.

“They're saying it's a grocery desert down here Price Right is a block away – the co-op (Lexington) is three blocks away,” Gellman declared.

Gellman and residents point fear losing green space.

"That's not what village living is," Gellman stated. "This is our village. This is the charm of our neighborhood."

Neighbors are also speaking out against a 62-foot blank wall, a front parking lot and reuse of the former hospital parking ramp.

But Nagy said it should provide vibracy back to the neighborhood.

“It will draw people in to use utilize the ramp, which right now is an under-utilized city asset, so we are trying to provide a demand a use,” Nagy explained.

Nagy also outline the plan for residential for 7 Eyewitness News.

  • The Elmwood Crossing project will offer 20% of its rental housing at affordable rate of 80% of AMI for Buffalo-Niagara-Cheektowaga.
  • People Inc has proposed a project for affordable senior housing, at 60% of AMI.
  • People Inc discussed their plans on October 23 community meeting, where they indicated their application was due by December 15 and must show project readiness. Jocleyn Bos of People Inc should be contacted with any questions related to the People Inc project.

Niagara District Common Council member David Rivera tells 7 Eyewitness News he's listening to all the comments and suggestions as it remains under review by city lawmakers. Rivera is encouraging the public to reach out to his office.

Plans by the developers call to create the former hospital site, which stretches across eight-acres off Elwmood Avenue, into a mix used site. According to plans, most of the old hospital building would be reused.

The petition against the project outlines the following:

* Make renovation of the hospital a priority to prevent further deterioration;

* No new retail except on Elmwood Avenue;

* No shops larger than 3500 sf to conform to the Green Code;

* No retail on West Utica Street;

* Create a one-acre park as a place to gather, play, and reflect;

* No demolition of existing houses.

* No sale of parking ramp to developers;

The developers established a Facebook page for the Elmwood Crossingproject and it is on that site it has issued an official response to the opposition.

In part, the developers state for two years the development team has created a redevelopment plan at the hospital site that has been publicly available for over a year and has quote “undergone a rigorous environmental review.”

“It is disappointing that at such a late hour, a small group is attempting to halt the process of obtaining a Planned Unit Development that has long been publicized and discussed,” the statement reads.

The following is the full statement issued by the developers:

In response to the recently circulated Restore our Neighborhood petition we are sharing the following response and continue to appreciate the community support of the project to date.

November 22, 2019

An Open Letter to Community Members and Stakeholders

Dear Stakeholder,

Recently, a campaign has been circulated by way of an online petition named “Restore our Neighborhood”. This petition requests a denial of the application for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to the City of Buffalo Common Council. Planned Unit Developments are incorporated in the City Code as a way to allow defined area to be developed as a unified and integrated development and intended to create more flexible or precise development outcomes than would be possible through the strict application of the City Code. To many, the redevelopment of a hospital site that sits in the middle of an urban neighborhood is precisely the type of project that a PUD should be utilized for.

While the development team appreciates the initiative, it also recognizes that over the course of a site’s redevelopment, especially on a project of this magnitude, satisfying the wishes of all is an impossible task. Over a period of 2 years, the development team has crafted a plan to redevelop the former Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. This plan has been publicly available for over a year, undergone a rigorous environmental review and has benefited from a group of community volunteers who have collaborated and dedicated years to the project by way of providing advice, sharing information and expressing a varied and diverse set of opinions.

It is disappointing that at such a late hour, a small group is attempting to halt the process of obtaining a Planned Unit Development that has long been publicized and discussed.

It is on that note, and in the desire for progress, that the development team wants to set the record straight on several points that have been publicly presented in the Restore our Neighborhood petition.

• EXISTING STRUCTURES Renovation of the hospital is a priority. The development team has provided evidence of the site’s design advancement and reuse. In fact, the recently announced reuse of an existing building for an Affordable Housing project is in direct alignment with this wish. The PUD has been proposed as a tool which will allow work at the entire site to advance in a transparent, efficient and coordinated manner.
• RETAIL SPACE The Elmwood Crossing project, with over 8 acres and roughly 500,000 sf of existing structures, is best suited for a mix of uses of varying sizes and types such as the proposed grocery store, which is planned for a site that was originally a grocery store with surface parking.
• RETAIL SIZE The site proposed for a grocery store at 204 W Utica is located in an area classified by the USDA as a food desert, meaning that a grocery store providing fresh and accessible foods is an unmet community need. From a feasibility standpoint, a large lot is most appropriate for a grocer.
• GREEN SPACE Green space is an important consideration, that is juxtaposed with retention of existing structures. The development team has worked to find a way that is achievable and realistic for a private landowner to provide for a community benefit. An appropriately designed community green space with welcome features to play, sit and convene is provided as a balanced approach to a public wish, supported by private dollars. The proposed alternative recently circulated in tandem with this petition is not realistic for a private property owner.
• DEMOLITIONS The development team has worked to save and retain over 90% of those existing structures, and has documented a plan to preserve, protect and reuse structures of historic significance. Any loss of structure has been considered carefully and weighed with the alternatives. Retention of each structure does not contribute to the best outcome.
• PARKING RAMP The City of Buffalo parking ramp is operating at a considerable loss at this time, and requires considerable repair of structural issues. It is draining our City’s funds that could otherwise be well-spent elsewhere. The development team seeks to purchase the ramp from the city, at a fair price, and will continue to provide publicly accessible parking.

The development team has worked closely with a group of community advisors and been accessible and transparent in unprecedented ways to plan for the reuse of the former Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. Conversation and discourse have contributed to numerable changes and improvements to date.

The development team asks for community member support in allowing our project to proceed as documented and shared through a participatory process for years. Your support should be shared to Councilman David Rivera via email darivera@city-buffalo.com and his legislative assistant Sean Mulligan at smulligan@city-buffalo.com or (716) 851 – 5125. For questions, we remain available.

Our community has at its doorstep a good plan. Let’s move it forward together.

With sincere thanks,

The Elmwood Crossing Team