While West Seneca lawmakers aren’t prepared to commit to a proposal to redevelop the former Seneca Mall site – a plan that doesn’t include a new football stadium, they repeatedly emphasized Monday – residents are speaking out against it.
Several months ago, the Town Board commissioned a $30,000 feasibility study on the public aspects of Seneca Place, a $700 million, public-private proposal by developer Scott R. Congel for the site off Ridge Road. The mixed-use project would includes two hotels, residential apartments, office buildings, retail shopping, a theater and community facilities atop a vast underground parking garage.
Residents are getting impatient that the study hasn’t been released to the public. “It’s not a public document yet,” Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said, responding to the first of several questions about its status.
So residents reacted Monday night to recent media reports about plans for the site, which some sources say include a new covered stadium for the Buffalo Bills.
Meegan said a stadium hasn’t been part of the town’s discussions with Congel’s company. “They have never talked to us about it,” she said.
Stadium or not, residents aren’t buying the proposal.
“Do you really think young professionals want to live next to the Thruway?” asked Amy Carpenter, noting the amenities of living in downtown Buffalo.
“What are these folks smoking?” Carpenter asked.
Linda Toy voiced concerns about a failed mega-project, also by Congel’s company, in the Rochester suburb of Irondequoit. After the town and Monroe County Industrial Development Agency agreed to significant tax breaks for redevelopment of the former Irondequoit Mall, no work was done and the developer reportedly owes millions in back taxes and other payments.
“I don’t want to get in a position like Irondequoit,” Toy said. “The town put all this money into it and then [the developer] left it.”
Meegan tried to assure her that wouldn’t happen in West Seneca.
“We have been working on this for six years,” Meegan said. “That’s not going to happen with this board, I promise you that.”
But with so much talk about redeveloping the Seneca Mall site, lawmakers voted Monday night to pursue a $50,000 grant from the Empire State Development Corp., with the town also paying up to $50,000, to fund a strategic development plan. The goals would include analyzing potential development opportunities and determining the obstacles to developing that particular site.
Another resident, Dave Kims, questioned spending money on another plan.
“I don’t see the sense of trying to spend more money on a strategic plan before we get to see the feasibility study,” Kims said.
Councilman Eugene P. Hart explained that the feasibility study is looking at projected revenues on the $128 million community center – which includes twin ice rinks – in Congel’s proposal, as well construction costs.
“What they’re talking about right now may not work for us,” Hart said. “We’re looking for that right project.”