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Planning Board delays West Side arts center over changes

A proposal to turn a former church on Buffalo's West Side into a performing arts center was delayed at least two more weeks, after changes to the plan prompted the city Planning Board to call for a new public hearing.

Lead developer Rachel Heckl wants to create the Rosanna Elizabeth Visual and Performing Arts Center in the vacant former Richmond Avenue Methodist-Episcopal Church at Ferry Circle.

Plans call for converting the 36,000-square-foot church at 467 Richmond Ave., at West Ferry Street, into a collaborative social and arts campus, with performance space, meeting space, a recording studio and an arts incubator. Heckl also plans two floors of apartments above the Benjaman Art Gallery in a separate three-story building, giving the campus a steady revenue stream.

The $11 million arts center has wide support, but neighbors object to the height of the apartment building, located at 527 W. Ferry. A single-family home at 531 W. Ferry also must be demolished, but the Preservation Board fell one vote short of approving that demolition last week, although its decision is only advisory.

In response to community feedback, the development team consolidated the two adjacent parcels into the plan. That was enough to warrant a delay until Oct. 10, the Planning Board determined. The environmental review is also not yet complete.

Neighbors worry about apartments that make Richmond arts center 'viable'

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