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Catholic Health, PUSH get City Hall approval

Plans for a new downtown headquarters for Catholic Health won approval this week during a city Planning Board meeting.

The health care provider, which operates four hospitals and many smaller facilities, is building a $46 million, 140,000-square-foot, six-story headquarters and training center at 140-144 Genesee St., at the foot of Route 33.

The Common Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a land disposition agreement related to the project.

The Planning Board also approved plans from PUSH Buffalo to build new rental units and rehabilitate existing structures on the West Side, known as Massachusetts Avenue Community Homes. The $12.4 million project includes 46 high-quality affordable rental units that will be energy efficient.

In other City Hall news this week:

• The board and the Council’s Legislation Committee approved plans from the owner of Ambrosia to move into space a half-block away, which is occupied by Nektar. Stavros Malliaris owns both Elmwood Avenue restaurants but the rent is too high at Ambrosia, he said, and he will close Nektar. Malliaris is expanding the building that houses Nektar, at 451 Elmwood, to accommodate Ambrosia, which will continue to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the new location.

Malliaris said he is still working on the timing of the transition.

• The board heard about a proposal to build a new location for South Buffalo Charter School but refrained from taking any action on it until environmental reviews are complete. The site, at 154 S. Ogden St., is part of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s brownfield cleanup program.

Pending environmental and governmental approvals, school planners hope to start construction in the spring and be open in time for the 2014-15 school year.

Jim Duerr, a neighbor, spoke against the project, noting concerns about environmental contamination, traffic and the negative impact the project could have on home values in the area.

Project lawyer Craig Slater said the DEC is charged with making sure the site is clean and said his investigation has found minimal contamination.

The school’s existing site on South Park Avenue is full and the school has a waiting list.

• The board and the Legislation Committee approved a plan from Kaiann Johnson to open a Jamaican-American restaurant, Kalypso, at the former Fast Frank’s location, 12 Winspear Ave., at Main Street.

Johnson said she hopes to open in mid-December.

• The Council’s Community Development Committee heard concerns about the Apollo Media Center from a group of independent producers.

The producers, who develop public access programming, said they have inadequate equipment, while the city’s government channel has access to higher-quality cameras, editing equipment and studios.

Lawmakers said they are aware of the problems at the facility, 1346 Jefferson Ave., and would work to address the issues.

• The Council’s Finance Committee heard from firefighters concerned about medical care and treatment from injuries sustained on the job, specifically that they are being sent back to work too soon or are not being treated properly. The committee will continue to call on the firefighters’ contracted medical provider to answer questions during a committee meeting, said Chairman Christopher P. Scanlon.

• The committee also approved the 2012-13 budget from Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps. Monthly rates are not affected in the city’s parking ramps and lots except at Ellicott-Oak, where rates are increasing $10 to $60.

• During a capital budget work session, Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto urged Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak to renegotiate a lease at the Hatch, where the city is planning to spend $1.4 million to upgrade the waterfront restaurant. The city owns the property and leases it to a private operator, and upgrades are called for in the 2013 capital budget, which has not been approved yet.

“It’s going to be a whole new building, it’s going to be a whole new situation,” LoCurto said.