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What is new in Ciminelli’s plan for new Elmwood development

A developer last year proposed building two four- and five-story apartment buildings with retail storefronts on Elmwood Avenue. It set off a firestorm. Since then, there have been some developments.

Here’s what’s new: Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. announced this week it had purchased 11 properties on and around Elmwood for the development. The new buildings would replace 2 1/2 to 3-story structures on the block between Bidwell Parkway and Potomac Avenue, and on the next block affecting the former J.P. Bullfeathers and the three houses that follow.

Who’s opposed: Critics say the project is a threat to Elmwood’s charm. The developer hopes it can appease concerns by incorporating the brick facade into the final design. and setting back the top floors to better mask the height.

Impact of the Green Code: Pressure from Elmwood activists led to recent changes in the Green Code, now before the Common Council. The changes would limit the height of buildings on that part of the Elmwood Strip to three stories, with anything taller needing a variance from the Buffalo Zoning Board. The current city code allows five stories.

Where things stand: It’s not known what changes are being contemplated. The company has held community meetings, and says it plans to submit design plans by the first quarter of 2017, with an expectation to begin construction later that year.

However, Ciminelli switched to HHL Architects, a firm with expertise in historic preservation, after initially using Karl Frizlen, who designed a much-criticized Elmwood building at Auburn.

“We haven’t really significantly changed from our original goals,” said Dennis Penman, Ciminelli vice president. “It’s still our intention to take into account public input, and stay true to the character of the Elmwood Village.

“We’re really taking a thoughtful approach to this so we have something at the end of the day that people can really embrace.”

Neighborhood concerns: New projects are getting taller and bigger. The proposal follows the large building at Auburn Street, and a four-story housing and retail project is nearing completion on Elmwood at the corner of West Delavan Avenue. Chason Affinity Companies has also submitted plans to build a five-story building housing condominiums and some stores on Elmwood near Forest Avenue.

Calls for a moratorium: The Elmwood Village Working Group has called for a moratorium on demolitions and related new construction on Elmwood Avenue until the Common Council makes a decision on the Green Code. That view is shared by Assemblyman Sean Ryan.

“While both Ciminelli and Chason Affinity are good community citizens, they are nonetheless in the business of making money and developing to the maximum extent,” said Marty Littlefield, the group’s chairman. “The Green Code provides limitations that their projects would totally undermine.”

Delaware Council Member Joel Feroleto said it was too early to comment on Ciminelli’s intentions, but he appreciates the company’s outreach.

“It’s different than other projects, because they have engaged the community to get feedback prior to submitting plans,” Feroleto said.


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