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Uniland’s Delaware Court plan wins key victory from Preservation Board

Uniland Development’s proposed project at the site of the Delaware Court building won a key victory Thursday when the city’s Preservation Board did not object to plans to demolish the building and make way for a new 12-story tower complex.

Uniland’s hotel, office, retail, and parking ramp project at 250 Delaware Ave. was one of three major items on the board’s agenda. The board also granted landmark status for an historic East Side church and considered a demolition request for the city’s last freight house.

The board’s action on the Delaware building came with some stipulations: that existing terra cotta that can be saved be used elsewhere in the project and that the developer agree to continue to meet with the board on how the parking ramp will look.

Kevin Kirk, architect for Uniland, reassured the board that the building won’t be torn down until the company is ready for construction.

Uniland revised its original plans for the site, and through several meetings convinced the Preservation Board that its design for a new building sufficiently replicates what is there now.

“Those discussions resulted in changes that we believe bring the building closer to a reconstruction,” said board member Richard J. Lippes.

The board voted to receive and file the demolition request, which allows the demolition to move forward without putting the board on record as “approving” the request. The building was never designated a city landmark.

Architect Antra Roze told the board that there are discussions to use the existing terra cotta in the courtyard.

Whitney Place resident Barbara H. Willis expressed concerns about the look of the parking ramp planned for the rear of the property.

“We are very concerned about the ‘Berlin Wall’ that’s going up at Chippewa and Elmwood,” she said.

The project will be discussed at the Planning Board on Tuesday, though the developer is still working on the plan and may not seek approval. The Zoning Board of Appeals delayed action on the project Wednesday because an environmental review was not complete.

In other business, the board granted landmark status to St. Ann Church and Shrine, 651 Broadway, though city lawmakers still have to act.

Several St. Ann supporters attended Thursday’s public hearing, and no one voiced opposition to the landmark status.

Martin Ederer, co-chairman of the church’s revitalization committee, told the board of the church’s unique interior.

“When it goes, it’s gone, and it will stay gone,” Ederer said.

Opponents to landmark status for the church building could weigh in at another public hearing at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Common Council’s Legislation Committee.

A representative for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, Kevin A. Keenan, said in a memo to the city clerk that he would speak at the public hearing, and submitted a report from Siracuse Engineers that offers a grim view of the structural condition of the church.

In August, the diocese announced its intention to demolish the building, built between 1878 and 1886, and then said it would work with Preservation Buffalo Niagara on finding an alternative use for the structure.

The Council passed a resolution earlier this month to deny any demolition permit for the church until the Preservation Board acted and the Council holds a hearing.

The board also heard from Samuel J. Savarino, who is trying to develop waterfront apartments and office space at the site of the former Erie Freight House at 441 Ohio St.

Savarino enlisted the help of preservation architect Kerry L. Traynor, who wrote an application for landmark status in 2009, to convince the board to allow him to tear it down. Traynor said that there has been significant water damage since she wrote the landmark application, which was approved in 2011.

Demolition of landmark buildings requires permission from the Preservation Board, known as a certificate of exception.

A public hearing and special meeting of the Preservation Board to discuss Savarino’s request will be held at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in Room 901.

Savarino told the board he is willing to salvage whatever parts of the building he can, and pay to have them used at a different site. The building was condemned by the Fire Department in 2011.

Savarino won approval of his development plan from the city’s Planning Board in July. He hopes to start demolition in the fall, and begin construction in the spring.