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As Central Park Plaza's last blighted piece falls, wait for renewal begins

The last building at Central Park Plaza was torn down Monday, signaling progress at the Masten District eyesore, but it could be years before the ribbon is cut on a new development.

A top official with LP Ciminelli said that the company is considering building new housing on the 27-acre site but cautioned that environmental remediation must take place before anything is built.

The city has high hopes for the beleaguered East Side property, which fell into disrepair but was purchased by a limited liability company associated with LP Ciminelli in May. Mayor Byron W. Brown and John Ciminelli, senior vice president of LP Ciminelli, held a news conference as the last structure on the site was demolished.

"This site will be redeveloped into another one of Buffalo's success stories," Ciminelli said.
How that success story will end is largely unknown at this point.

"We would like to do something geared around residential development, but again it depends on what level of clean we reach and how successful we are with our remediation plans," Ciminelli said.

Neighbors will likely see less activity on the site in the coming year, as demolition ends and environmental remediation begins.

The site is part of the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Brownfield Cleanup Program. Remediation is necessary because the site was a quarry. After Ciminelli submits a remediation plan to the DEC, remediation is expected to begin in the spring and last about a year.

By the end of 2013, the site will be ready for redevelopment, Ciminelli said.

The company's review has shown that the site has a low level of contamination that won't pass current environmental standards.

In the more recent past, the site has been a shopping destination but is now a vacant expanse with piles of concrete and masonry that will be crushed and recycled for future use there.

In May, Strickler Development LLC, owned by Louis Ciminelli, chairman and CEO of LP Ciminelli, bought the property for $800,000. Since then, Strickler spent $1.2 million to tear down five buildings totaling about 275,000 square feet.

Strickler acquired the property after its previous owner, investor Samuel Kurz of Brooklyn, was cited by the city many times for Housing Code violations. The State Attorney General's Office got involved, and Kurz sold the property.

The city has made investments around the property, spending $2.4 million since 2006 to demolish 135 buildings in the neighborhood and an additional $85,000 in the last year paving nearby streets.

"This will be the kind of crown jewel that Ciminelli envisions it to be," Brown said, adding later that the city would like to demolish more unsalvageable buildings on Leroy Avenue, a gateway to the plaza.