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New hearing is planned on redevelopment project in Gates Circle

Residents in the Gates Circle area will get another chance next week to air concerns and negotiate changes for the proposed Canterbury Woods senior living project before it comes back to the Buffalo Planning Board for potential approval in two weeks.

At the suggestion of the Planning Board and the project’s neighbors, Common Council President Darius Pridgen has scheduled a community meeting with the project sponsor, Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates, for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Burchfield Penney Arts Center.

The meeting, facilitated by Pridgen after previous initiatives came up short, will represent the latest effort by community groups and the developer to bridge the gap between their visions for what the planned $40 million, six-story building will look like.

Officials hope the forum will enable the two sides to reach consensus and avoid more contention about the 58-unit residence that will anchor the overall redevelopment of the 6.7-acre former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital site.

Episcopal Church Home officials have proposed a blend of natural stone and brick for the lower levels of the facade, while incorporating metal panels and other materials on the face of the upper three stories. They’ve modified the design several times to address prior concerns.

But residents have been critical of that design, saying it looks cheap, modern and institutional, and would be inappropriate for the tony neighborhood along Delaware Avenue. They say the juxtaposition of light and dark colors, and natural masonry versus metal, creates a jarring appearance, and expressed a preference instead for natural masonry brick or stone on the entire facade, which the developer said would be too costly. And they’ve accused the developer of not working with them and not being open to change.

That prompted the Planning Board to table the project at its Dec. 18 meeting, and again on Monday evening, delaying a vote until Jan. 11 to give time for one last meeting. If the proposals are approved, Marc Romanowski, the project’s attorney, said officials hope to start work on Canterbury Woods in February. He said crews already have removed two-thirds of the debris pile from the demolition of the former hospital tower, the Medical Services Building and the power plant.

Meanwhile, Episcopal Church Home and TM Montante Development are seeking city approval to divide the larger former hospital property into four major parcels as part of the overall redevelopment. That larger $150 million project envisions more than 500 residential units, a fitness center, an urban grocery and ground-floor retail space in multiple buildings to be constructed over several years.

Canterbury Woods would occupy one of the four parcels, which Episcopal Church Home will purchase from Montante early next year before construction begins. Two other properties would be to the east and west of the proposed extension of Lancaster Avenue, and the southern portion of the land would represent the fourth parcel, Romanowski said.

Officials from the city and the developer are also discussing whether the Lancaster Avenue extension would be a public, city-owned street or a private road, Romanowski said. Empire State Development Corp. is contributing $2 million toward infrastructure work as part of the overall project.

In other matters, the board:

• Approved Ellicott Development Co.’s plans for a new 12-story mixed-use tower at 500 Pearl Street at Tupper Street, with a six-story parking ramp, two floors of 28 apartments, a three-story hotel, first-floor retail space and one floor of commercial office space, all connected to the smaller Buffalo Christian Center building. Officials hope to break ground in April, and to complete the retail, parking and office floor by summer 2017, with the apartments and hotel to follow by fall 2017.

• Approved a two-story, 7,400-square-foot brick addition on the north side of Imperial Pizza at 1035 Abbott Road, which will include an eat-in dining area on the lower level and upper mezzanine, and some office space on the second floor. Two adjacent properties at 1055 and 1051 Abbott that will be merged to allow for a total of 27 parking spaces.

• Heard plans for the new Mandela Market convenience store, with five gas pumps and 15 parking spaces, on four vacant lots at 511-525 Broadway, at the corner of Jefferson Avenue. The board tabled the project until more details are finalized by the owner, Ahmed Saleh.

• Approved installation of an ATM drive-thru lane on the south wall of the M&T Bank branch at 1875-1877 Main St.