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Council likes Elmwood Ave. hotel project Six lawmakers say they'll back proposal

A plan to build the first hotel on the popular Elmwood Strip has won the backing of most Common Council members.

At least six lawmakers are pledging to support the $7 million project at the corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues when the Council takes a scheduled vote Tuesday on a rezoning. While the Planning Board must approve a final design for the 72-room hotel, some city officials view the Council's support as a sign the project will move forward.

The four-story Wyndham hotel proposed by Savarino Construction Services Corp. has caused some controversy.

Many neighborhood residents and some merchants claim the project won't fit into the character of the Elmwood Strip. Concerns have been raised about traffic congestion, parking and the impact on existing businesses. Some opponents have talked about exploring legal options to halt the project.

The developer wants to demolish five properties on the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest, buildings that currently house residential and commercial tenants.

Only one citizen spoke on the issue at Tuesday's Legislation Committee meeting. Daniel Sack, who sits on Forever Elmwood's Design Committee, told lawmakers the coalition of businesses and homeowners believes the hotel will have a "mostly positive impact" on the area.

"This project will improve the neighborhood," Sack said. "I think it will bring more value to the neighborhood and give it something it doesn't already have."

Sack also praised Savarino officials for "bending over backwards" to address community concerns. The developer has scaled back original plans to build a five-story 80-room hotel on the site. Numerous architectural changes and other revisions also were made based on community feedback, officials said.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., whose district includes the development site, supports the project. He said that while he is sympathetic to concerns raised by some people, many other residents think the hotel will be an asset.

Six of the Council's eight representatives attended Tuesday's committee meeting, and all expressed support for the project.

"I would encourage the developer to look at sites in the Ellicott District for a similar boutique hotel," said Brian C. Davis of Ellicott.

Also vowing to support the hotel were Council President David A. Franczyk, Majority Leader Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr., Legislation Committee Chairman Richard A. Fontana and Michael P. Kearns of South.

Eva M. Hassett, Savarino's vice president for strategic initiatives, said she is encouraged by the Council support and is optimistic the project will be finished in the summer of 2007.

"Wyndham officials were in town today, and they're very excited about the project," she said.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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