The gold-plated shovels dug into the soil with more ease Friday than one might have expected, given the three-year tug-of-war that had stalled Delta Sonic's plans to expand its Main Street car wash.
Noisy court battles. Contentious Common Council hearings. Lengthy debates in the planning and zoning boards. Ever since Delta Sonic rolled out its $2 million blueprint in 2001, the expansion faced fierce opposition from some residents in the adjacent Linwood neighborhood.
Critics worried about additional noise, traffic and lighting. They decried the demolition of the Mid-City Office Furniture Building at Main and Barker streets.
The brouhaha prompted major revisions in the blueprints. New elements were added, including brick walls, fences and a different design for a convenience store to make it a noise buffer. Linwood Avenue resident Dean A. Drew, one of the project's most vocal critics, said the revised plan is "far superior" to the original design.
Robert J. Klein, Delta Sonic's senior executive vice president, said the project will create at least 40 new jobs and generate about $250,000 in additional tax dollars each year for the city and state.
Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said the multimillion-dollar expansion is another indication that developers have "growing confidence" in Buffalo.
Masiello maintained that the revised Delta Sonic project is being "fully supported" by area residents.
"That's a complete lie," said John M. Hague, whose Linwood home is a few hundred yards from the expansion site. "They've ignored us up and down throughout this whole thing."
In a telephone interview after the groundbreaking, Hague said he and some other residents still have concerns about the impact the project will have on the Linwood Historic Preservation District.
Weather permitting, Klein hopes construction on the total project -- including the car wash, detail shops and gas pumps -- will be finished by January, while the expanded store should be open as soon as November or December. Delta Sonic officials said the site will include a deli eatery, a fresh bakery bar, and a waiting area that will "feel like a luxury hotel lobby," with a working fireplace and marble bathrooms.