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Developer reconfigures Waterfront Village plan to keep neighbors happy

Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. has unveiled revised plans for a condominium and townhome project at Waterfront Village, after more than three years of community input and public comment that led to a reduction in height and mass of the buildings.

The Amherst-based developer, which is moving its headquarters to downtown Buffalo, is still planning on a total of 31 for-sale residences for its new West End project at 240-260 Lakefront Blvd.

But it's now proposing that the development would include seven townhomes set back from the road in a jagged formation and four separate condo buildings along Lakefront and Ojibwa Circle, with six units in each. And all of the buildings would be three stories in height.

That's a change from its original proposal from early 2015, which called for a single four-story “mid-rise” building with 15 to 20 condos, plus 10 three-story townhomes. But that was uniformly rejected in community feedback that consistently focused on concerns that the buildings would be too high and too large, disrupting the views of other residents in the neighborhood.

So Ciminelli officials broke up the one big building into four smaller ones and lowered the building heights by 12 feet. That reduced the overall square footage from 168,000 to 67,900.

"The project team listened to the requests of the community," Amber Holycross, Ciminelli's senior development manager, wrote in a letter to the Planning Board, which will get its first review of the project on Jan. 16.

Under the new plan by Carmina Wood Morris PC, each townhome would include an integrated garage at ground level, and would feature a masonry and glass facade, with slab-on-grade construction. Six of the units would be 3,300 square feet, including the garage, while the seventh would be 4,900 square feet.

Rendering of proposed West End townhome buildings at Waterfront Village. (Provided by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.)

The condo buildings would each have one level of below-grade parking and three floors of apartments above, with each floor having two condos of 1,800 square feet and a shared central vestibule. The building exteriors would feature cultured stone and natural wood veneers, precast concrete and fiber cement, as well as windows. All 31 units would feature open floor plans with views of the water and the city skyline, and they would be sold at market value.

The project will also include 71 onsite parking spaces, with driveway access to Lakefront Boulevard and Ojibwa Circle.

The project originally began when the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency issued a request for proposals in summer 2014 to redevelop a 2.43-acre parcel of land in the midst of the Waterfront Village area.

The developer responded, presenting its proposal to BURA and then to representatives of the Waterfront Village Advisory Council, which in October 2014 voiced its conditional support. BURA then backed the $19.5 million project in January 2015, naming Ciminelli the preferred developer of the site, and a sale agreement was submitted to the Common Council.

But not everyone in the surrounding community was in favor, particularly in the Breakwaters complex across from the proposed site. So the Council asked the developer to meet with neighbors to solicit feedback. The sale agreement has not yet been finalized.

The developer said it hosted seven community meetings over the next 34 months, of which five at Templeton Landing were open to the general public while two were limited to representatives of the Admirals Walk, Marina Park, Portside and Breakwaters developments.

"The community's feedback was consistent throughout the process," Holycross wrote in the letter.

Besides the Planning Board, the project must also be reviewed again by the urban renewal agency and may also require variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals. If the project is approved, currently anticipated by late March, construction would begin in July with two phases of work. The first would cover the seven townhomes and site preparation, while the second would cover the remaining condo buildings. Full build-out is expected by September 2020, after 26 months of construction.

"We look forward to a straightforward approval process," said spokeswoman Anne Duggan.

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