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Developers seek to start lengthy review of $100M Elmwood Crossing

The team behind the planned Elmwood Crossing redevelopment of the former Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo property in the Elmwood Village is ready to launch the city's next evaluation of the $100 million project.

Sinatra & Company Real Estate and Ellicott Development Co. have submitted requests to the city to divide the 10.5-acre property into smaller pieces and start a lengthy environmental and neighborhood review.

The two developers would like to combine a portion of 187 and 219 Bryant St. into one property, and also combine 180, 184 and 188 Bryant into another property. They are also asking to merge part of 219 Bryant with 451 Elmwood Ave., for the five-story mixed-use building that was approved by the board two weeks ago as the first Elmwood Crossing project.

In addition to those properties, the overall project subject to the environmental review also includes the city-owned Gallagher Ramp at 489 Elmwood Ave. and the former Hodge Pediatrics facility at 125 Hodge Ave.

No formal plans for any other construction or demolition have been filed for the rest of the sprawling site, and any such details are still far away, as the developers and their architects still have to formalize their plans and obtain approvals. Until then, "the site will be relatively quiet," said Sinatra Director of Development Amy Nagy.

But the applications to the Buffalo Planning Board, which would take the lead on the city review, will kick-start the municipal process that can continue simultaneously with the fine-tuning of the proposal.

The Planning Board will review the requests on May 7. "For the development team, we are full steam ahead," Nagy said.

Sinatra and Ellicott were selected by Kaleida Health last summer as the designated developers for the longtime former Children's site, which was vacated in November when the hospital moved to its new facility on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The developers bought the property for $1 million shortly afterward, and then unveiled plans for an ambitious makeover of the hospital campus into a mixed-use community dominated by apartments and town houses.

Buffalo Planning Board starts review of Elmwood Crossing

Developers have previously talked of building about 200 apartments, 40 to 50 condominiums, 40 to 45 townhouses, an urban grocery, boutique shops, office space, a hotel and an EduKids day care center.

According to the new application, the site would include up to 102,000 square feet of hospitality space, including a hotel of up to 94 guest rooms and up to 322 residential units, with a mix of apartments, town houses and condominiums. The site will also feature up to 168,790 square feet of commercial space, including for retail, office, health and wellness and the day care, according to the application.

The two new nonresidential buildings, for the grocery and day care, would total 54,000 square feet, with a maximum height of 55 feet.

Most of the existing hospital buildings, including the Variety and Tanner towers, would be retained and reused, while two buildings would be expanded. A 15,000-square-foot former pharmacy on West Utica Street would be expanded into a four-story building with an urban grocery, boutique shops and apartments. The 4,000-square-foot former Hodge Pediatrics would more than double in size to house the day care.

The project needs approval from the Planning Board, the Common Council, the Buffalo Water Authority and Sewer Authority, and the Erie County Health Department. It also depends on state and federal historic tax credits and state brownfield cleanup credits, with the accompanying regulatory approvals.

The project would be constructed in seven phases, starting with the five-story building that was already approved, followed by the day care, grocery and town homes, and then the renovation of the existing hospital buildings into residential units. Work on the first building will begin this summer, but completion of the last stage is not expected until year-end 2022.

The developers have been working closely with a Project Advisory Committee of neighborhood residents and representatives that Kaleida set up to ensure the redevelopment incorporated community input and desires. Officials with Sinatra and Ellicott said they're trying to keep the process moving because residents have told them repeatedly that they don't want the property sitting vacant.

Elmwood Crossing project wins key zoning approvals

That led to the companies' initial proposal for a six-story building at the northeast corner of Elmwood and Bryant, on a parking lot adjacent to the MTK restaurant building, using land that was ready for reuse in order to demonstrate fast progress. The plan initially included first-floor retail space, one floor of office space and four floors of apartments with up to 36 units in all.

The $16 million project was later downsized to five stories, with up to 23 apartments, in response to community opposition, and it was approved by the Planning Board on April 23 after receiving variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The developers then pledged to start the review shortly on the rest of the project, and to complete a full and thorough environmental review on all aspects of the redevelopment, including the building that was already approved.

"The development team is fully committed to advancing the full site’s development as quickly as possible, and this is a necessary step to that," Nagy said. "We also believe that this start to the process, in addition to the approvals of 451 Elmwood, will be an important signal to the vital Elmwood Avenue businesses that we have confidence in both the project and the neighborhood."

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