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Benderson plans new Taco Bell on Elmwood

Benderson Development Co., the region's biggest retail developer, wants to build a new fast-food restaurant on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, and this time it wants the whole enchilada.

Benderson is proposing a 2,606-square-foot Taco Bell restaurant and drive-thru on one of three remaining "outparcel" spaces in a 9.89-acre plaza that currently contains a 41,000-square-foot LA Fitness center and a Citizens Bank branch, according to an application to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The fitness center and four outparcels were constructed in 2012, a year after the Buffalo Planning Board gave its approval for the project, but the three empty parcels were left stoned and fenced.

Plans by Dean Architects call for the restaurant to be constructed on an existing building pad at 1893-1927 Elmwood, just north of Hertel Avenue, where the infrastructure for it already exists, according to the application. The building will include two bays of windows and a main entrance in front, and the project also includes parking, curbing and greenspace, the application said.

The new restaurant will be parallel to the bank branch, close to the street. But the developer is seeking variances from the Zoning Board for a bigger front-yard setback than allowed – 84 feet versus 10 feet – and for half the "transparency" or window area than required in the Green Code.

Benderson executive James A. Boglioli said in a letter to the board that the project is consistent with the city's original approval for the site in 2011, and argues that while the variances appear "substantial" and "noteworthy on paper," there's no "demonstrated harm to the community" or "undesirable change in character of the area" in reality.

That's because the lease for the bank prohibits any future building on the site from being closer to Elmwood than the branch – which is already set back – and the proposed Taco Bell "is a very small building" with "no additional area to add glass," added Boglioli, Benderson's director of "right-to-build" for the Northeast.

The project is scheduled to be considered by the Zoning Board on June 20.

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