Joe Dash's proposal for a new and state-of-the-art supermarket in North Buffalo faces a big hurdle on Wednesday before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
But he couldn't have asked for a much better reception at the Planning Board on Monday.
Two frequent critics of development projects spoke out against the project as too big and inappropriate.
"This project is too damn big for this site," said Jim Rozansky, calling it a "big-box store."
One person objected to what he called an abuse of the zoning process that he said will damage the neighborhood. "It's a vital streetscape that this store will kill. It's really going to be a drag on this neighborhood," said Larry Gottesman, who lives in the nearby Crocker Point neighborhood.
But, those comments were outweighed by five enthusiastic supporters - including immediate neighbors of the site - along with Common Councilmembers Joel Feroleto and Rasheed Wyatt. Feroleto said he plans to speak in favor of the project at the ZBA meeting.
"I think this is a great thing for our community," said Tom Lombardo, owner of Lombardo's Restaurant on Hertel. "Dash's is a community store. They do it the right way, and this is the kind of people you want in your neighborhood."
Neighbors praised Dash's responsiveness and attentiveness to any questions or concerns. Dash also has a petition with 2,300 signatures in favor of the new store.
That swayed more than half of the Planning Board members to voice their own backing -- even though they couldn't vote on the project. Under the new Green Code, projects needing variances must obtain all approvals prior to a Planning Board vote.
The board recommended that the Common Council approve the city's sale of a 2,000-square-foot right-of-way on Hertel to Dash, for $12,000, allowing the building to extend eight feet farther while leaving room for a cafe patio area, pedestrians and a bus stop.
"I have to applaud Mr. Dash and his team here," said board member Martha Lamparelli. "I have heard from many people in the neighborhood that they are excited to have this."
The third-generation grocer also was pleased. "I'm tickled with how well it went," Dash said, after the 70-minute public hearing.
Dash, owner of Dash Markets Inc., is seeking approval to construct a 47,550-square-foot store at 1764 Hertel Ave., on the northeast corner of the intersection with Starin Avenue.
He needs nine zoning variances from the Green Code to make the project work. And he faced controversy because of a prior effort - which he now says he regrets - to get the Common Council to amend the zoning map so he wouldn't need as many variances. That caused a reaction, and he backed away from the request last month.
The $12 million structure would replace the 94-year-old company's oldest existing store, which houses the company's offices. But at 15,000 square feet, it's outdated and lacks enough space.
So that store, to the west of the new construction site but still on the property, would be demolished, along with other structures that could not be reused because of structural issues and hazardous materials, architect Jesse F. Wendell said.
"It's past its useful life and it's time for a new store there," Dash told the Planning Board. "So at this point, it's time to start fresh and build a new store… I think we have the support of the community to get this done."
The design, by architectural firm Wendel Companies, envisions a two-story building that looks like it was built decades ago to meld with the community.
Like a suburban Wegmans market, the proposed new structure would include a 32,000-square-foot first floor retail store, with 15,500 square feet upstairs for an open eating area, office, a community room and virtual office space that would be available for rent by the community. The store, which sits on 1.46 acres, would employ 40 full-time and 75 part-time workers.
The exterior facade would be mostly brick, with some decorative precast concrete infill panels, window systems, decorative steel ornamental railings and a cast-stone water table, the Planning Board documents said.
The top of the building would include a green roof system, which would help to screen rooftop equipment, as well as an employee patio area and garden that would be set back from the north facade parapet. A 78-space, 28,000-square-foot heavy duty asphalt parking lot - with striped islands instead of curbed and landscaped islands - is also planned.
As part of the project, Dash will reconstruct the Hertel right-of-way to include stamped and colored concrete simulated pavers along the curb edge, to match what occurs on the street west of Starin.
Besides Planning and Zoning Board approvals, the project also needs a special-use permit from the Common Council, a stormwater sewer approval from the Buffalo Sewer Authority, and various permits.
Officials hope to finish design work during the summer and fall, with construction beginning immediately afterwards, to be completed by late spring or early summer of 2018.