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Queen City Landing schedules groundbreaking for April

With demolition complete on the former Freezer Queen warehouse on the Outer Harbor, construction is now slated to begin in March on the 23-story Queen City Landing apartment tower, barring a legal victory by project opponents.

According to a court document filed by Queen City Landing owner Gerald Buchheit, groundbreaking for the lakeside residential complex is scheduled to take place “on or about” April 17, 2017, just over three months after the remains of the current structure are completely removed.

That’s the first time a specific timeframe has been given for construction to begin on the tallest waterfront development in the city in recent memory.

Preparatory work will begin even sooner. Requests for bids on structural steel will be issued as soon as the end of this month, with erection of the “non-foundation” portion beginning by March 27. Bid requests for the enormous glass curtain-wall facade will be issued by Feb. 27, with installation set to begin by late June, according to Buchheit’s affidavit.

The goal is to have the structure enclosed by the end of 2017, before the weather turns bad and affects the rest of the project schedule, such as painting, finishing work and other interior construction, Buchheit said.

“It is imperative that construction commence in the spring of 2017 to stay on track with critical tasks,” Buchheit said in his affidavit. “If the building is not enclosed by the time winter arrives, these activities will either be delayed or will require temporary winter weather protection measures.”

The Orchard Park businessman, who has owned the 20-acre peninsula at 975-1005 Furhmann Blvd. since 2007, is teaming up with construction executive Melissa Baumgart of R&P Oak Hill to develop a new 370,000-square-foot complex overlooking the Small Boat Harbor.

The ambitious development, with a final cost expected to range between $60 million and $85 million, would include 197 one- and two-bedroom market-rate apartments with balconies. It would also feature two restaurants, a pool, a wellness studio and a three-story parking ramp with 300 spaces. It’s slated to open by 2018.

As part of the project, crews first took down the six-story former refrigerated storage facility, which was built in 1927 but has been vacant and derelict for over 20 years. The site has been cleared of asbestos and brownfield cleanup and debris removal is expected over the next few weeks.

The project was approved earlier this year by the Buffalo Planning Board and Common Council, over the objections of environmentalists, preservationists and other critics who say the project poses a host of risks and is out of scale with the Outer Harbor. Four Buffalo residents and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper filed suit to block the demolition or seek a more thorough review of the project’s environmental impacts, arguing that the city acted improperly. The plaintiffs lost an initial court ruling, but filed an appeal that is now pending.

Last week, the state appeals court rejected a request by Riverkeeper and the four residents for an injunction to block construction work, but consolidated the cases into a single appeal, which could be heard by the court as soon as April 3.

“We’re pleased with the decision, and with the fact that the progress we’re making and the work we’re doing can continue without interruption,” said Buchheit spokesman Phil Pantano.

Still, environmental attorney Arthur Giacalone, who represents the four residents but not Riverkeeper, said he was “not disappointed” in the decision, noting that Buchheit indicated in his sworn comments that the project is still in “a design and engineering phase,” with “significant decisions” and purchases still to be made. “There appears to be no immediate need for the preliminary injunction,” he said.

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