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80-room hotel on Elmwood is planned 5-story building to sit at corner of Forest

An Amherst developer wants to build an 80-room boutique hotel on Buffalo's Elmwood Strip.

Savarino Construction Services Corp. has unveiled plans for a five-story structure -- to be called the Elmwood Village Hotel -- on the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues. The developer is holding talks with the Cendant travel group to locate the Buffalo area's first Wyndham hotel at the address.

Savarino has signed a purchase contract with Buffalo businessman Hans Mobius, who owns the five properties from 1109 to 1121 Elmwood Ave., to assemble the project site. The existing structures -- residences with local retailers on their ground floors -- would be demolished.

The hotel would be a new anchor for the northern gateway to the Elmwood Strip and fill a lodging void in that section of the city, said Eva Hassett, Savarino vice president for strategic initiatives. "We saw a huge opportunity to bring something to the Elmwood Village that will make sense and bring a service that's currently not available," Hassett said. "Elmwood is such a wonderful place to eat, shop, walk and spend time. We believe this project will add to that vibrant environment."

The proposal calls for construction of a $7 million, 45,000-square-foot hotel that would front Elmwood Avenue, featuring 4,500 square feet of first-floor retail space. Parking for more than 50 vehicles would be under the structure, with a handful of surface spaces in the rear.

The top floor of the brick building would be set back, reducing its scale and providing the upper guest rooms with private terraces. Rooms on lower floors would feature recessed balconies.

Architect Karl Frizlen said his goal in designing the building was to come up with a structure that will "blend with the fabric" of Elmwood Avenue.

The first floor of the building -- which will house hotel operations, a small cafe and one or two retail shops -- will be fronted with large windows to create "transparency" between the building and the streetscape.

The current timetable would see the project get under way in the upcoming spring/summer construction period, with completion within nine months.

While representatives of Forever Elmwood and various city officials have been consulted on the proposal, Savarino also will stage a community session to get input from residents, business owners and others, Hassett said.

"So far, everyone who has seen our plans has reacted very positively to the design and the use," she said. "But we're willing to work with the community to make sure this is something that really works for the Elmwood/Forest area."

Justin Azzarella, executive director of Forever Elmwood, said he's excited about another mixed-use project being proposed for the street but said it is ultimately up to neighborhood residents to weigh in on the project. "We think it could be great for Elmwood Avenue, but we're remaining neutral until we take it to the public and get their reaction," Azzarella said.

A public information session will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery on the Buffalo State College campus.

The hotel project means the homes of some longtime local retailers will be razed. Patty Morris and Nancy Pollina have been operating Don Apparel, a vintage clothing store, at 1119 Elmwood, for nearly 14 years. Morris said she had heard rumors about a hotel but has not received direct information from her landlord.

Morris and her business partner will weigh the options of finding a new home on Elmwood Avenue, relocating to Hertel Avenue or just going out of business.

Michael Faust, who has operated Mondo Video, an alternative video store at 1109 Elmwood, since 1995, also faces an uncertain future. "To be honest, business has not been great, so I have been considering my options," Faust said.

Other affected businesses include Skunk Tails Glass, at 1113 Elmwood, and HOD Custom Tatoo, at 1115 Elmwood.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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