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Coppola gets OK to build house in Peace Bridge expansion area

The third time was the charm for a former Buffalo lawmaker who has been fighting to build a home on land that might be used for a future Peace Bridge expansion.

Tuesday, the Planning Board unanimously approved Alfred T. Coppola's revised blueprints for a single-family home on a vacant site at 762 Columbus Parkway near Vermont Street. During previous reviews, planners criticized the design for looking like "a cross between a barn and a church."

Last year, Coppola even went to court and persuaded a judge to overturn a decision by the city's Zoning Board, which had tried to block the new home.

Coppola has made numerous design revisions, including the addition of French doors in the front. Planning Board members praised the changes, saying the new look fits in with the character of the neighborhood.

Coppola, a former Common Council member and state senator, has been a fierce critic of Peace Bridge expansion plans, claiming the project would devastate one of Buffalo's most historic neighborhoods. But he denies that his plan to spend about $100,000 to build a new home for his family on the Columbus Parkway site is a ploy to try to block the bridge expansion.

The new home, said Coppola, might be a catalyst for additional development in an area that is crying for new housing.

Coppola said he's still doubtful the Peace Bridge expansion will ever take place, claiming the project has been mired in 20 years of "propaganda" and delays. He hopes to begin construction later this year and would like to move into the new home sometime in 2011.

In other action Tuesday, the Planning Board gave its approval to a proposal that would create new space for small businesses in two vacant downtown buildings.

Developer J. Roger Trettel wants to convert a building at 523 Main St. and a structure behind it at 500 Washington St. into a complex that would house up to 14 small businesses.

A coffee house, confectionary shop and hairstyling salon are among the tenants that will likely lease space, Trettel told The Buffalo News last week.

A future phase of the $500,000 project might involve building loft apartments above the commercial space.

Buffalo Place, the entity that manages and markets the downtown business district, has endorsed the project. Deborah L. Chernoff, the group's planning manager, attended Tuesday's meeting in City Hall.

"[The space] on the first floor will meet the needs of downtown residents, downtown employees and visitors," she told the board. "We think it's a great project, and we would like to see it go ahead."


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