The architectural drawings and pictorial slides on display at the public meeting Tuesday evening in the auditorium of the Buffalo History Museum had an assured and settled-in look, as if the three-story mixed-use retail and apartment building they depicted in the heart of the Elmwood Village were already standing there.
If all goes well, it will be standing there about a year from now, tucked tightly into a double lot at 766 and 770 Elmwood Ave., currently a parking lot between the Globe Market and the 7-Eleven store at the corner of Elmwood and Auburn Avenue.
The preliminaries are almost complete, but before the project goes to the city’s Planning Board, the developer – The Benchmark Group – and the architect – Karl Frizlen of The Frizlen Group – needed to hear what people in the neighborhood think.
About three dozen braved the single-digit temperature to voice concerns about parking, the appearance of the building and its impact on nearby streets and businesses.
Martin J. DelleBovi, director of real estate for Benchmark, which also owns the former supermarket building across the street at 765 Elmwood that houses Spot Coffee and Panera Bread, said the new structure would include four small retail shops on the ground floor and 24 one- and two-bedroom apartments upstairs, all with balconies and underground parking.
Several residents expressed concern about how trucks and other construction activities would disrupt that block of Elmwood. DelleBovi assured them that the construction schedule had been stretched from 4 months to 9 months so that only two contracting companies would be working at the same time. Trucks, he said, would park in the Spot Coffee/Panera lot across the street.
Frizlen, who also designed new mixed-use buildings at 504 Elmwood and 448 Elmwood at Bryant Street, talked about how he made modifications to his original plan to soften the facade, which includes precast limestone and lap siding panels, to reflect the character of the neighborhood.
Several residents criticized the look of the building as too modern, too flat or too much like the building at Elmwood and Bryant.
Dan Sack took Frizlen to task for the pre-cast limestone. “It’s not limestone. It’s made to look like limestone. It’s a cheap imitation,” he contended.
He also cited a wall of concrete blocks facing Grenway Alley at the rear of the building. “It’s a street,” he asserted. “Concrete block is not allowed to be visible from any street.”
Most of the complaints, however, were about parking. A West Ferry Street woman said her block was jammed on both sides with parked cars every weekend. Business owners said elderly customers were complaining about how hard it was to find parking places.
Carly Battin, executive director of the Elmwood Village Association, said arrangements already were made with the city to loosen parking restrictions on nearby streets such as Lafayette Avenue, Ashland Avenue and West Ferry.
Niagara District Council Member David Rivera, who hosted the meeting in place of ailing Delaware Council Member Michael LoCurto, noted that the city did not want to create any more parking lots, but said he and LoCurto would help get parking rules relaxed on more nearby blocks.
“I’ve had to walk a couple blocks myself to get to a restaurant on Elmwood,” he said.