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Buffalo Planning Board delays High Street store project, approves others

The city Planning Board this week sent a proposal for a new Fruit Belt food market back for more neighborhood input after the scale of the church-sponsored project doubled in size.

St. John Baptist Church’s community development corporation wants to put up a four-story building at 226-238 High St. to house its Sweet Pea Market, along with three floors of market-rate apartments. The property at Locust and High streets – really a combination of four or five parcels – would also have space for 21 parking spaces, in addition to the 40,000-square-foot building with five residential units on each of the three upper levels.

The nonprofit organization is working with Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative on the interior planning and design for the first-floor market, pharmacy and outdoor cafe, which is intended to provide fresh food within walking distance for a nearby community that “has been referred to as a food desert,” said architect Tommaso Briatico.

But the project caught board members by surprise, as they had previously approved a two-story project for Sweet Pea at a nearby site. They also wanted more details about the actual appearance of the glass overlay tower, and urged Briatico to move the overall structure itself closer to the curb.

“What the neighbors understood would be a two-story structure a block over is now four stories, which is a pretty dramatic change from what neighbors assumed,” board member Cynthia Schwartz said.

Noting that Fruit Belt neighbors are “pretty active” in community groups, the board tabled the project, and directed Briatico and church officials to meet with residents to get their input before coming back.

The Planning Board also:

• Approved Sinatra & Company Real Estate’s conversion of the former American Household Moving & Storage building at 1661 Main St. into 55 market-rate “workforce housing” apartments, with 7,800 to 8,000 square feet of commercial space and retail on the ground floor and parking in the rear.

• Approved Iskalo Development Co.’s planned conversion of the former St. Margaret’s School at 1391 Hertel Ave. into 23 apartments and 2,000 square feet of office space, after several weeks of municipal and environmental reviews. It still needs a Zoning Board variance and a Common Council approval.

• Approved the demolition of the 900-space Ellicott-Goodrich Garage at 854 Ellicott St., on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It’s slated to be replaced by a new 1,825-space parking ramp. “This is one of the few instances I’ve been in front of the preservation board, and they’ve said, ‘Great, take it down,’” said land-use attorney Marc Romanowski, who represents the Medical Campus.

• Approved a 40-space fenced parking lot for Buffalo Transportation at 289-321 Ramsdell Ave.

• Scheduled a Dec. 28 public hearing on a proposed subdivision of the 6.7-acre Gates Circle property into several macro-parcels for future development.

“Those are the right lots to create now,” Romanowski said. “If further lots are needed in the future, we’ll address them.”

• Accepted the lead role for the environmental review of the proposed Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor light-industrial hub on the city’s East Side, with 50 acres of land and 750,000 square feet of vacant and under-used industrial space. The project includes a jobs and training center at 683 Northland Ave., as well as reuse of the former Houdaille, Niagara Machine and Otis Elevator facilities that have been inactive for years, as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com