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Elmwood Village hotel offers unique opportunities

It should not be a surprise to anyone that some people are opposed to the hotel project on Elmwood and Forest. Change never comes without resistance. At the same time, we now see that there are many more who recognize that this is a unique opportunity to invest in and add a new dimension to the Elmwood Village.

This project is an example of how a developer, property owners and even the businesses that are at risk of being displaced have pulled together to move this project forward. In a relatively short period of time, many of the community's concerns have been identified and addressed.

But in spite of this, there are and will continue to be different opinions on the effect of the change to our individual and collective experience of the area. In our family, the teenagers have learned to appreciate the eclectic stores and shops that the hotel would displace, yet when I look around the area in question, I see empty storefronts on Forest and closed restaurants that make the neighborhood look uncared for. I am sure this is exactly the opposite of what the proponents of the status quo claim is to be protected.

Everyone can appreciate the Greenwich Village flavors of the record shop, the video shop, the used clothing shop and even the tattoo shop. So when our teens tell us they oppose the project because they want Elmwood to stay the same, I understand.

The example of the improvements in the buildings at Auburn Avenue and Elmwood has been mentioned. Perhaps a public-private partnership could step up to develop a cooperative similar to the one by Annie Adams of the Elmwood Collective that provides space for artists and recently the Science Spot, a unique satellite of the Buffalo Museum of Science.

This new collective could be done at a number of sites along Forest Avenue across from the Richardson Complex and with care could provide affordable rent to the displaced shops while encouraging the sense of community we all love.

Perhaps the fire under the Richardson building will be stirred by this hotel project. The developer, Savarino Construction, has proven more than once that it would be willing to work with the neighborhood, the shop owners, the city and the residential neighbors, and because the developer is so progressively in tune with the issues, this could be a real turning point for our region.

In August 2004 Business First referred to Sam Savarino as an "urban pioneer and visionary" for his redevelopment of the Central Park Plaza. As a result of his efforts in bringing together a private and public partnership, the community has a much-needed grocery store where there was previously an old run-down plaza, creating jobs and a revitalized shopping area.

Let's not miss this opportunity. Now that the leadership team of the city recognizes the value of moving forward, we may be witnessing the next step in turning Elmwood and West Forest into a desirable place for people to live, work and play. This could be an example for all people that with the right leadership, great things happen in Buffalo.

Dwight Moldenhauer heads Moldenhauer Advisory Services in Buffalo.

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