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Ciminelli to restore former Sunday Skateshop building as part of bigger project

Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. has decided to save and rehabilitate, rather than demolish, a well-known Potomac Avenue building that it acquired as part of a larger proposed mixed-use development project involving 11 parcels in the Elmwood Village.

The prominent development firm said Thursday that it will start work in the next few days on a series of "structural integrity improvements and rehabilitation efforts" on the former Sunday Skateshop building at 587 Potomac. It's working with local restoration and rehab firm Abraxas Inc. to handle the initial restoration work, which will kick off the larger redevelopment project planned for a vast swath of land along Potomac, Elmwood Avenue, Ashland Avenue and Bidwell Parkway.

The Skateshop building and surrounding properties will still be part of that sprawling development, the company said.

"Our decision to save and rehabilitate the Skateshop building is a result of the feedback we’ve received from area neighbors, and our commitment to delivering a cohesive project that fits the character of the surrounding neighborhood,” said Amber Holycross, Ciminelli's senior development manager. “We’ve really been listening, and the many conversations to date have shaped and informed how our project has evolved and come together. Abraxas has an impressive background in restoration and we’re pleased to partner with them on this effort.”

The announcement met with praise from Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, who said he had told Ciminelli that “the Elmwood Village community would not support the proposed development… if it involved mass demolition.”

“The community has long known that these buildings have the potential to be rehabilitated,” Ryan said. “I am pleased to see that Ciminelli has begun to understand what the community wants… The buildings at the corner of Elmwood and Bidwell should be adaptively reused, not demolished to make way for a mega structure filled with parking spaces.”

Ciminelli earlier this month paid $7.9 million to buy the cluster of properties from Donald Leone, including the former home of J.P. Bullfeathers, which the Leones owned. The company, which had unveiled tentative plans for the ambitious project late last year, wants to construct a mixed-use project with residential, retail and parking elements that it says will be respectful of the character and history of the Elmwood Village area.

Preliminary concepts by former architect Karl Frizlen envisioned a pair of four- or five-story buildings, with retail storefronts on the ground level. One would be on the west side of Elmwood, between Bidwell and Potomac, while the second would be on the next blook, starting from Bullfeathers and extending north by three properties.

The company has since changed architects, amid criticism of the project from community members. But neighbors, who are already battling other development proposals along the Elmwood corridor, are still worried about yet another massive construction endeavor that they fear will be too large and inappropriate for the area.

To gain community support, Ciminelli also said it plans to host a public information session on Wednesday, Nov. 9, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, at 875 Elmwood. Representatives of the developer, HHL Architects and other project partners will present more details about their plans for the properties that Ciminelli acquired from Donald and Lori Leone. Officials hope to obtain "substantial public feedback" through comment cards, a project website, interactive display booths, a presentation and one-on-one conversation.

“We’re eager to share the details of this amazing development with the Elmwood Village,” Holycross said. “Our proposal truly maintains the integrity of the area and has a scale that appropriately fits with the surrounding neighborhood. I’m excited for residents to see how the project will complement both the vitality and street energy of Elmwood and the beautiful Bidwell Parkway setting.”

email: jepstein@buffnews.com

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