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Elmwood/Forest hotel plans scrapped Deed restrictions dating back to the 1880s prohibit development of retail complex at site

The plan for a new hotel and retail complex at Elmwood and Forest avenues is dead.

The project was abandoned because of old deed restrictions prohibiting commercial development on the site, which borders Elmwood southeast of Forest, developer Sam Savarino said Wednesday. Once those legal barriers, handwritten in the 1880s, were uncovered by his lawyers last month, scrapping the blueprint was "a foregone conclusion," he said.

Businessman Hans Mobius, who owns the six parcels, hopes to find another buyer or buyers. When the properties were converted from homes to retail businesses long ago, the deed clauses evidently were not an issue. Mobius said he was unaware of them.

But opponents of the proposed hotel, including business owners and nearby residents, were certain to use them as a weapon in lawsuits aimed at blocking construction, Savarino said.

The restrictions, apparently written to protect what was then a planned subdivision at the northern edge of the rapidly expanding city, barred such bygone structures as barns, stables, cow sheds and saloons.

But they also prohibit "any business establishment whatsoever" on the southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues. Furthermore, the clauses barred development within 25 feet of the street, which would have rendered the proposed four-story hotel and retail complex "invasive" and impractical, Savarino pointed out.

Residents of Granger Place, behind the project site, joined affected shop owners and other neighbors in filing suit last summer to stop the project on grounds it would negatively impact the neighborhood. The anti-hotel group also sued the city for moving too quickly to rezone the property earlier this year to allow the hotel/retail complex.

Savarino said he felt that the naysayers ultimately would defeat any legal challenge to the restrictions.

In an Internet posting thanking supporters, Eva Hassett, executive vice president of Savarino Construction Corp., said the company considered the hotel "something bigger than just a real estate project. We saw it as a chance to do something positive for the Elmwood Village neighborhood, for the cultural institutions, for Buffalo State College's hospitality program."

If it had been built, "tourists and visitors would have experienced Buffalo far differently than they do now," Hassett said on the Buffalo Rising Web site.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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