The battle over the future of a prime section of the Elmwood Village began in earnest Thursday night, as four developers put forth competing visions for what should be done with the longtime home of Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
There are certain to be places for people to live and shop.
But they also talked about parks and schools and soccer fields.
Even a Dash’s market and a restaurant.
The Buffalo developers laid out concepts before about 400 attentive people during a two-hour public forum hosted by Kaleida Health at Kleinhans Music Hall.
Chris Siano, who was attending the event with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, said he liked the sports field element.
“I think there’s a need for it in the city,” said Siano, who lives close to the hospital.
His wife, Kristin Siano, a stay-at-home mother, said she doesn’t want to see more places to buy women’s clothing.
“No more ladies’ clothing stores on Elmwood,” she said. “We have enough.”
Karyn Brady, who has two children at Tapestry Charter School, said she doesn’t want the school to move.
“I like the school where it is,” she said.
Of the plans discussed Thursday, Brady said she liked the green space offered by the Uniland Development plan.
She said her 12-year-old son plays soccer, but even so, she wasn’t totally wowed by the soccer field.
“But I don’t think it’s like, ‘Oh, we don’t have a soccer field,’ ” said Brady, who is president of the Bird Avenue Block Club. “We do.”
The developers want the right to acquire and redevelop the 7.9-acre Bryant Street property, at costs that could exceed $100 million.
The century-old hospital is relocating to a new $267 million John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital facility under construction on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The present hospital is scheduled to be empty by November 2017.
The 125-year-old hospital complex consists of seven interconnected buildings, mostly between Bryant Street and Hodge Avenue and stretching to Elmwood Avenue.
Here are the competing visions:
Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.
Ciminelli wants to spend $122 million to convert the complex into a mixed-use neighborhood, with tenants ranging from a school and daycare to a soccer club and residential apartments and a boutique hotel. The project, designed by Cannon Design, involves four other partners.
The new neighborhood – dubbed Queenslight from Buffalo's City of Lights and Queen City nicknames – would feature 249 apartments, condominiums and town, homes spread among at least five buildings. It would also have retail space, plus a soccer park, a hotel, a second location for Tapestry Charter School and a new EduKids daycare.
Tapestry, one of the city’s most successful K-8 charter schools, has committed to taking up the existing Alfieri Building.
Ciminelli wants to make the entire building three floors and connect it to the 10-story Variety-Tanner buildings. The rest of the Variety-Tanner buildings, which stretch along Bryant and then perpendicular back toward Hodge, would be residential. The buildings would feature a mix of condos and luxury rental housing, as well as eight new townhomes constructed in the front of the building along Bryant.
The building currently runs close to the street, so plans call for taking off a portion of the structure to pull it back 25 feet, while also removing the “skin” of the building and replacing it with a more “residential-feeling” façade.
Next door on Bryant, the 1911 H-shaped building would house a new 72-suite, boutique hotel run by Dennis Murphy’s InnVest Lodging, which runs the Mansion on Delaware and the larger new Hotel Henry at the former H.H. Richardson Complex.
At the corner of Elmwood and Bryant streets, Ciminelli would construct a five-story L-shaped building with retail space and 38 apartments.
A 374-space underground parking ramp is planned on the Hodge Avenue side.
Ciminelli also partnered with the Delaware Soccer Club for a two-floor soccer facility on Utica Street, on the site of an abandoned pharmacy. Plans call for a glass-enclosed indoor field, with a “green” roof that would serve as a second, outdoor field in warmer weather.
“It’s an approach toward sports that people really like these days,” said architect Mike Tunkey, a Cannon principal. “It’s one-story. It’s a nice complement to the neighborhood.”
If selected and approved, Penman said the developer would seek to be onsite by October 2017, with full completion of the first of the four phases by September 2018 and full completion by September 2019.
Ellicott Development Corp.
Ellicott Development, run by the father-and-son team of Carl and William Paladino, is proposing perhaps the least costly and least dramatic of the redevelopments.
“We’ve probably got the plan with the least amount of pizzazz, but it’s the most practical and real, and it can be done with the least disturbance to the neighborhood,” CEO Bill Paladino said.
Ellicott intends to reuse nearly all of the existing buildings on the campus.
Plans call for using the Alfiero, Variety and Tanner buildings for about 62 market-rate and senior independent living apartments, and a 150-room boutique, neighborhood-style hotel. The hotel, which may be either branded or independent, would likely occupy the tower, and would include related amenities such as a swimming pool and community meeting rooms.
An unnamed charter school is considering using the historic H-shaped building next door.
Ellicott would construct a five-story, 70,000-square-foot building at the corner of Elmwood and Bryant, with first-floor boutique retail shops, second-floor office space and three floors of apartments. A similar-sized building would be built on Utica Street, but geared toward medical offices, with perhaps one or two floors of apartments.
The developer is also talking with another unnamed school about building a 15,000-square-foot performing-arts-center building on Utica that could also serve the community. And the old retail store on Utica would be used for a new grocery or retail tenants. Surface parking would be added behind those buildings, in addition to the existing parking ramp.
In all, the project would cost about $75 million. If selected, Paladino said the developer could start construction by fall of 2017 and finish within three to five years.
Sinatra & Co. Realty
The plan submitted by Nick Sinatra, who already owns and manages 55 properties with 685 residential units in the Elmwood Village area, focuses largely on newly built market-rate housing on 65 percent of the site. The rest would be used for educational or organizational purposes, loft and medical space, and a Dash’s Market grocery store on the corner of Elmwood and Hodge.
The $161 million proposal calls for about 50 townhomes, 300 market-rate apartments and 50 to 100 upscale condominiums, built over three phases over five years.
“It’s really important to keep a tight timeline on this development,” Sinatra said.
The first phase envisions 46 three-story townhomes on West Utica Street.
“It’s important to infill on Utica with townhomes. We have to rebuild the fabric of that neighborhood,” he said.
The second phase entails the two-level Dash’s store, with two floors of apartments above at the northeast corner of Elmwood and Hodge.
Sinatra said he has an agreement with owner Joe Dash.
Immediately to the east would be a building divided into a residential portion nearest the grocery store and a data center on the other side, with additional parking and landscaping.
“There are very few places in the city of Buffalo that have as much power coming into it as these hospitals do. So we would harness the power into the data center and market it for rent,” he said, adding that he’s been in discussions with a third-party who would master-lease the facility and then resell space to other users.
The third and largest phase calls for construction of three new mostly residential structures – two with 10-story towers set back on the site of the former Variety-Tanner and Alfieri buildings, which would be demolished. A lower base area of the two towers, along Bryant, would also have commercial or retail space on the first floor.
Sinatra wants to put up another four-story L-shaped building at the corner of Bryant and Elmwood, with space for Sinatra’s Restaurante at the corner and other first-floor boutique retail space, plus apartments above.
Finally, the H-shaped 1911 building would be renovated and occupied by a charter school, possibly Elmwood Village Charter School, while the buildings behind it would be renovated for unspecified reuse.
“We have the financing to get it done,” he said.
His company’s development efforts have largely been financed by the Pritzker/Vlock Family Office, which has poured $60 million in cash into his projects, as well as other backers.
“They’ve seen the site. They love the project,” Sinatra said of the Pritzker family.
The proposal also includes money from other partners, brownfield cleanup tax credits and bank financing. His team includes the Nanula family’s Essex Homes of Western New York, Timothy Vaeth’s JTVaeth Construction and Ontario Specialty Contracting, with design work by Carmina Wood Morris PC and Wendel.
Uniland Development Corp.
Uniland Development wants to transform the site into a neighborhood it has dubbed Bryant Park, with “a community of residences, businesses, a boutique hotel and a public park,” according to a company statement.
A 75,000-square-foot park, designed to connect the various uses, bisect buildings and connect Bryant and Hodge, would be the centerpiece of the project.
Architect Stieglitz Snyder’s plans call for adaptive reuse of the Variety Tower, Tanner and Alfiero buildings, transforming them into One Bryant Park, with up to 149 apartments, commercial office space and first-floor retail space. That complex may also include underground parking and a rooftop garden for tenants. The historic Annex would be restored and reused as Two Bryant Park, with condominiums.
Uniland, known for its Avant and 250 Delaware projects in downtown Buffalo as well as the Catholic Health System headquarters, plans selective demolition for two other buildings to remove the connecting additions, turning them into Three and Four Bryant Park, with restored exteriors. The interior would be adapted for residential and commercial uses, as well as for a boutique hotel or educational space.
At 125 Hodge, the building would be reused as commercial space, such as for a daycare center, while new buildings at 445 Elmwood and 130 Hodge would include ground-floor retail space, offices and possibly loft apartments.
Uniland intends to construct a new building on a parcel that combines 188 and 204 West Utica, creating an opportunity for a grocery store, community center or recreational facility.
“Bryant Park is a concept that right-sizes the density of the current site to create a dynamic, mixed-use community that enhances the existing diversity of the Elmwood Village by providing a new public park, residences, retail and offices,” said Kellena Kane, Uniland’s real estate development manager.
A fifth proposal had been submitted by Pyramid Brokerage Co.’s Syracuse office, representing another party, but the proposal was disqualified after Kaleida realized it was just an offer to purchase one specific piece of property rather than a comprehensive reuse plan for the entire complex.
The four proposals will now undergo continued review by Kaleida Health staff and an independent financial evaluation by accounting firm Tronconi Segarra, followed by formal presentations to the Kaleida board next month and a final selection of the preferred developer by Kaleida in the middle of the year.
News Staff Reporter Charity Vogel contributed to this report.