A proposal by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. to turn the former J.P. Bullfeathers' parking area on Elmwood Avenue into a commercial lot for Allpro Parking may be yet another indication that the developer's controversial proposed Arbor + Reverie development project isn't going anywhere soon.
Ciminelli is seeking a variance from the city's Zoning Board of Appeals to allow use of the lot to sell spaces to the public using a pay-by-cell-phone system for "transient and visitor parking," according to the firm's application. No other changes are planned for the 0.24-acre site at 1010 Elmwood, which also houses the two-story former restaurant building that at one point was slated for demolition.
"We do not propose any new construction, expansion or reconstruction to this area and only ask that the commercial use be permissible," the firm wrote, underlining the words "do not."
Allpro and Ciminelli Real Estate are separate companies, but Paul Ciminelli is a part owner of AllPro.
Ciminelli bought the Bullfeathers property in September 2016 along with a cluster of nearly a dozen parcels on Elmwood, Potomac and Ashland avenues near Bidwell Parkway. Two months later, the developer announced plans for a $40 million residential project, consisting of two five-story buildings on Elmwood at the corners of Bidwell and Potomac, with 97 condominiums and apartments, eight retail storefronts and a three-level parking ramp. Eleven structures would be demolished to make way.
The project immediately faced significant backlash from neighbors and other residents, who objected to the project as far too big and out of scale for the community. Critics also said it violated the city's new Green Code, which restricted the height of new buildings in the Elmwood Village to three stories.
Ciminelli revised the project to try to assuage the concerns, reducing the Reverie building to four stories and eventually suspending the Arbor plan. Officials also agreed to preserve two properties with only renovations, and later put several back up for sale because they weren't needed.
The resistance grew, and the project has been in limbo for more than a year. A new Thai restaurant opened in one of the Ciminelli-owned buildings, at 988 Elmwood Ave., as the developer sought to generate some revenue from the properties it still owns.
The developer marketed the Bullfeathers building to potential tenants and restaurateurs over the past 17 months, but noted it has been "unsuccessful in finding a qualified tenant," despite rent reductions and different marketing strategies.
The firm said the current private use of the Bullfeathers lot is not the "highest and best use" of the site, and argued that while it has incurred $35,000 in operating expenses, it can't generate a return because it's not allowed to charge. The property is "central to Elmwood Village" and is already used for private parking by patrons, visitors and residents.
Demand for parking in that area is growing, the firm said, and most of the neighborhood uses "already crowded street parking." The new use would allow an alternative that would benefit both residents and Ciminelli.
"While we continue to review our options for the project site, we wanted to provide a low-cost parking option that would support Elmwood Avenue businesses," said Ciminelli spokeswoman Anne Duggan. "The current zoning for the lot requires a variance to allow for commercial parking."
The ZBA will consider the request at its Feb. 21 meeting.