A large-scale development more than a decade in the making may finally happen in the northwest corner of Amherst, but the project could look a lot different than originally planned.
Muir Woods – proposed in 2001 as the area’s largest office park – is back and taking on a more residential flavor, with the potential for more than 400 new student and market-rate apartments.
Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is looking for more flexibility in the plan approved by the Town of Amherst in 2007 so it can scale back on office space and add more residential to the 326-acre property, bounded by North French Road to the north, Campbell Boulevard to the east, the I-990 to the south and Dodge Road to the west.
In other words, a project that was once two-thirds office space and one-third residential has the potential to be two-thirds residential and one-third office space, explained Dennis M. Penman, executive vice president at Ciminelli.
“We’ve taken a second look and have a more contemporary view of the development opportunity there,” Penman said.
A public hearing is scheduled before the Amherst Town Board on June 16.
Since Ciminelli first rolled out plans in 2001, Muir Woods has taken on different forms and a variety of obstacles, including neighborhood opposition and a site severely limited by wetlands. Marketing plans for 700,000 square feet of new research and commercial office space also proved difficult in a region that hasn’t been able to absorb all the suburban office space it currently has.
Ciminelli returned to the Town of Amherst earlier this year requesting a wider range of permitted use on the Muir Woods site, specifically the 46-acre parcel just north of the I-990.
Instead of office space on that parcel, the latest plans show 226 market-rate apartments, 34 patio homes and another 198 apartments targeted for students attending the University at Buffalo, which is less than two miles away.
The site also would include some neighborhood retail, Penman said.
“We’re looking at kind of a multifamily approach,” Penman told The Buffalo News.
Meanwhile, plans for the remainder of the Muir Woods property would stay the same: 237,000 square feet of office and research space on 25 acres along the west end of the site, near Dodge; 52 single-family homes and 68 patio homes on 33 acres to the east, near Campbell; and another 16 single-family homes on an adjacent four acres.
Two-thirds of the 326-acre site would remain untouched.
“So now, we really have a mixed-use project as opposed to kind of monolithic office space,” Penman said. “You have this walkable, mixed-use live-work-play environment.”
Once Ciminelli gets the necessary approvals and permits from the town, it could begin building the infrastructure in as little as 90 days, Penman said.
In response to concerns about a saturation of student housing around UB, Ciminelli commissioned a study that showed there’s still a market, said Brad A. Packard, project manager. UB has campus housing for about a quarter of its nearly 30,000 students, while the four off-campus apartment projects near the North Campus provide accommodations for another 7 percent of UB students, the study showed.