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Editorial: On Children's Hospital reuse plan, time to talk ... and listen

The name “Elmwood Crossing” sounds cool.

We’re hoping the reality comes out as sweet-sounding as the name for the project to reuse the former Women and Children’s Hospital. Right now, developers are doing what they should: listening to the public.

But it’s a two-way street: The public also must listen to the sound of progress. It’s coming and it has to take into account something called change. Change can be a positive force when everyone comes to the table to discuss how it should happen and remains open to new ideas.

The proposed redevelopment of the former hospital into a residential and retail community holds promise. Whatever happens has been made possible in good part because of Kaleida Health’s willingness to shift direction with a new development team. The hospital vacated the eight-acre property at 219 Bryant last month, moving to its new location on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Now Sinatra & Co. Real Estate and William Paladino’s Ellicott Development Co. have presented an ambitious plan that they believe could tie together Elmwood Village and Allentown.

The $110 million project will include about 200 apartments, 40 to 50 condominiums for sale and 40 to 45 townhouses. The condos and townhouses would fill a gap for empty nesters who may want to continue owning their own homes.

Most of the former hospital buildings would be reused under the plan. The project calls for a new six-story building with apartments and retail at Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street. A new four-story building on Utica Street would house an urban grocery, boutique shops and apartments.

The developers unveiled the plan details at a community meeting at Lafayette Presbyterian Church on Elmwood. The naysayers were in attendance.

Out of around 300 people, many raised their voices about one of the new building’s six-story height at Bryant and Elmwood. No surprise there. The city’s new Green Code restricts the heights of new buildings in that area. It allows three stories.

Residents fought – and lost – on Chason Affinity’s four-story condominium building at Elmwood and Forest avenues. The developer had reduced that project from five to four stories. It wasn’t enough to satisfy some residents.

As as result, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is holding back on a pair of real estate developments on Elmwood Avenue in the face of controversy involving, yes, height.

Developers such as Sinatra and Paladino have every right to seek variances from the code. As Paladino observed, other buildings in the neighborhood are taller than the six-story building his team wants to construct. That, alone, doesn’t justify a variance, but other factors might.

Elmwood has charm and character. Both can be preserved.

Steven and Jennifer Nassivera have lived on Hodge Avenue for more than a dozen years and expressed excitement about aspects of the Children’s Hospital redevelopment plan: retaining and reusing many of the historic buildings on the site. They do have concerns about parking and traffic. Getting out of Hodge Avenue and onto Elmwood Avenue is already difficult, according to the couple. Steven Nassivera is also concerned about the variance requirement for the six-story building.

But take into consideration what Tom Halloran, of Richmond Avenue, a 35-year resident of the neighborhood had to say as he chastised the neighborhood naysayers who “… caused a lot of problems for the Chason project.” He expressed gratitude to God that the hospital project is moving forward.

The discussion on the Children’s Hospital development will continue. Both sides must be willing to listen to each other and take into account what truly is best for the entire community.

Buffalo is changing. It’s important to retain a sense of continuity, but also to produce the density that makes cities work and to make appropriate and affordable use of one of the city’s prime locations.

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