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Abandoning two streets for medical building gets Buffalo Planning Board support

Ellicott Development Co. is pushing forward with plans to build a six-story medical and commercial office facility near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, after the city Planning Board Monday night recommended approval by the Common Council of a request to abandon and sell two dead-end city streets to the company as part of the project.

The real estate developer wants to build a commercial complex of 125,000 to 160,000 square feet, depending on tenant demand, on the site of a former small residential neighborhood known as St. Paul Mall. That’s behind the former Our Lady of Lourdes Church, just south of the intersection of Main and Best streets.

The developer is seeking to purchase St. Paul Mall North and South, which are short cul-de-sacs off Ellicott Street on either side of St. Paul Street. The land includes 21 parcels that Ellicott purchased over the last few years, where it has demolished all but two of 14 houses, as well as the former church rectory and school. The streets request now goes back to the Common Council for final approval.

The new building would be focused on health-related business, such as clinical operations and medical offices, as well as some retail space on the first floor. No tenants have signed leases yet, but Ellicott CEO William Paladino said the firm is talking to “a couple of smaller tenants” and “a few larger tenants that will dictate how big this actually is.” Some residential space may also be possible, but it’ll be mainly commercial, he said.

Meanwhile, the church itself will be converted into a mixed-use facility after the developer adds “a couple of floors” inside the 12,000-square-foot building. The exterior of the building would largely look the same, he said.

Paladino said the upper floors would probably have about a dozen apartments, while the first floor would likely consist of “ancillary” services like a coffee shop, dry cleaning, or related retail to serve tenants of both buildings, as well as the surrounding neighborhood. The church and the new building would be linked by a covered walkway or corridor, so that tenants would not have to leave either building to go between them.

The south side of St. Paul Mall would become surface parking “for the time being,” but could have a structured ramp at some point, Paladino said. He noted that the nearby Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center also “has parking needs,” so the developer agreed to give them some access and an easement to get another lane of parking.

Plans also call for another building on the site in the future, and the developer eventually may be able to re-open the rest of St. Paul Street itself, which is now a park.

Paladino said he had “no idea” of the final costs for the project, but “hopefully in the next 90 days we’ll be further along.” He said he hoped to bring specific site plans to the Planning Board for approval by the spring, but would “like to be in the church working” by then.

The Planning Board also approved an unrelated 30-space parking lot by Ellicott Development at 1106 Ellicott St., for employees of the Erie County Medical Center’s chemical dependency outpatient clinic at 1285 Main, after overcoming resistance from local residents concerned about privacy and the impact on their homes and neighborhood. No additional curb cuts are planned and Paladino said the developer would try to keep as many trees as possible.

Ellicott will also redo the six-foot-high chain-link fence, and the board required the developer to put in denser landscaping as a buffer between the new fenced-in lot and the homes. Paladino also agreed to work with the neighbors to address any future concerns.