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Planning Board likes container home project

The Buffalo Planning board liked a proposed new shipping-container home in the First Ward, but a neighbor expressed concern, so the project was tabled.

South Buffalo resident Michael Heidinger wants to construct a two-story, 2,255-square-foot home and home office using a hybrid of five shipping containers and traditional stick-frame construction.

The plan, which needs zoning variances, met with support from the Planning Board on Monday, but Valley Community Association Executive Director Peg Overdorf said that it wouldn’t fit with the nearby residential neighborhood. So the board encouraged Heidinger to meet with her before the board votes on the project in two weeks.

“We think we’re meeting the character of the neighborhood,” said Mike Anderson of Abstract Architecture. “There is an industrial heritage and history there. There is obviously a pretty big grain elevator in the vicinity.”

The board also expressed its backing for Savarino Companies’ proposal to buy and convert the four-story former St. Clare’s Church school at 169 Elk St. into 11 market-rate apartments, first-floor retail space and parking. The board must await zoning board approval before it can vote.

“This is a pretty straightforward project for us,” said Kevin Hayes, director of development for Savarino. “It’s a ‘do no harm’ type of project.”

Savarino, who has the building under contract with the Catholic Diocese, will seek historic tax credits to help cover the costs.

“We’re happy that Savarino is taking it over, so that in the Valley we don’t have another vacant building and to bring in some fresh people, so that the building can be maintained in its historic state and give the neighborhood some sense that it’s not being abandoned, to give our neighbors some hope for the Valley,” said Friar Steven Pavignano, pastor of St. Clare’s.