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Developer modifying Elmwood hotel plan to ease criticism

The developer behind a proposed hotel on Buffalo's Elmwood Avenue is reworking the design to make the building "smaller and a better aesthetic fit" for the popular street.

The scale of the hotel building is going from five stories to four.

Sam Savarino also pledged Thursday to tweak the building's facade to make it more acceptable to the neighborhood.

"We said from the beginning that we wanted to build something that would be a good fit for Elmwood Avenue, and we're willing to make the necessary compromises to achieve that," said Savarino of Savarino Construction Services.

The developer faced a packed house during a community information meeting Tuesday evening in Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery, where more than a few neighborhood residents raised concerns about the size and appearance of the hotel, proposed for the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues.

Some totally rejected the large-scale development, which would take the place of five two-story, clapboard structures that were built as residences and now house first-floor retail shops.

"We're not going to make everybody happy, but we don't want to force something on the community that it's not comfortable with," Savarino said. "We believe we can do a successful project that adds something to the street and feels like it belongs there."

The original plans Savarino submitted to the city and the Forever Elmwood community group called for a five-story, 80-room hotel with the top floor set back to create rooftop rooms with private terraces.

The smaller hotel would be four stories, with 72 rooms and a traditional roof line that would be just one story taller than most of the neighboring structures.

Karl Frizlen, the project's architect, said the revised design will bring the total square footage of the building down from 45,000 square feet to just under 40,000 square feet.

"Just taking it down a floor will make it appear less massive, but it will still be a significant building, which fits with urban design principles for a major corner like Elmwood and Forest," Frizlen said.

The facade will remain a mix of brick, stone and glass, but the architect is reworking vertical and horizontal elements to mute its mass. "There are design elements we can tweak to make it seem less obtrusive while retaining the density we need for this mixed-use project," Frizlen said.

The building still will incorporate local retail on its first floor, in keeping with the existing mix of shops and restaurants along the Elmwood Strip.

Savarino and Frizlen will meet with the Forever Elmwood executive board Monday to go over the revised design. The project will get its first official airing in City Hall on Tuesday morning, when the Buffalo Planning Board holds a formal review.

Justin Azzarella, Forever Elmwood executive director, said he will ask the Planning Board to hold off on taking action on the project. "We're going to request that they table it to give the community time to soak in this project. It's a major project, and it is still evolving, so it makes sense not to rush," Azzarella said.

But he said the call to go slow should not be interpreted as a rejection.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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