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Uniland unveils plan for high-end luxury town homes at Gates Circle

More than a decade after the former Park Lane Restaurant was closed and demolished to make room for a controversial condominium tower that was never built, the prominent site at Gates Circle may finally be redeveloped.

And the homes proposed for the site could be built with such high-end amenities as personal elevators and could fetch more than $1 million apiece.

Uniland Development Co., which bought and cleared the site after the business closed in 2007, wants to construct a new 12-unit residential townhome project, consisting of two low-rise buildings on two adjoining parcels.

The plan would bring renewed life to the vacant land, which sits in the shadows of the existing Park Lane Condominium tower on Gates Circle and Tony Kissling's Gates Circle-Delaware Apartments at 1310 Delaware Ave.

And it's much smaller than the 23-story building with 68 luxury condos that Uniland originally proposed in 2006, after it bought the Park Lane from William Koessler for $1.2 million. That $55 million project faced significant community opposition and litigation, especially from neighbors, but fell through when the economy tanked in 2008.

The company has not revealed the cost of the new project, but it's much less than the previous concept.

Uniland's new plans for its 1.235-acre site, designed by Foit-Albert Associates, call for one three-story townhouse building with seven units at 33 Gates Circle and one two-story townhouse building with five units at 33 Lancaster Ave. The two parcels connect in back, in one corner.

Another rendering of the Gates Circle townhomes proposed by Uniland.

According to a post on Uniland's website, the townhomes would range in size from 2,500 to 3,800 square feet, and include a two-car garage, full basement and private courtyard with a built-in grill and base cabinets. All the units would be for sale, with some likely going for more than $1 million, but specific prices have not yet been disclosed.

Each unit also would have 10-foot "coffered" ceilings, large windows, hardwood floors, a gas fireplace, crown molding and other upscale finishes. A private elevator is also included as standard in some units or an option in others, to enable "aging-in-place" for older buyers.

The exterior design for the Gates Circle building features light brown brick, cast stone, a tan stone veneer facade, and dark brown roof shingles. Those on Lancaster are largely dark blue fiber-cement shingle siding, with a stone base and brown roof. The project would also include 14 garage parking spaces and 11 visitor parking spaces. If approved by the city, construction by Uniland is expected to take 12 months.

A rendering of the townhomes planned for the Lancaster Avenue side of the project.

“The demand for new homes in the City of Buffalo is high right now so we feel this is the right time and the right project for the property,” Uniland Vice President Michael Montante said in the online post. “These townhomes will be Buffalo’s premier home ownership option where residents will enjoy all the space they need and all the amenities they want in an historic walkable neighborhood.”

Company officials are meeting with neighbors and "other interested parties" to respond to questions and provide more information as part of their community outreach before the municipal review begins.

Uniland has applied for a pair of variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, to permit a wider building – 240 feet instead of the 120-foot limit in the Green Code – and for a deviation of 2 feet from the front-yard setback requirements. Those requests will be considered on July 18, with the project expected to come to the Buffalo Planning Board on July 30, its final meeting of the summer before taking a break until September.

In its application, Uniland says the variances would allow it to construct the full 12 townhouses instead of just 10, and it argues that the requests are "not substantial."

"The project is not financially feasible with only 10 townhouse units," Uniland Director of Planning and Design Michael Longo wrote in the application. "The variance will only enhance the project and make it more attractive and a more viable investment by allowing an additional two residential units."

Longo also wrote that the variances would not produce any "undesirable change" or "adverse impact" on the area, but rather would "enhance the character of the neighborhood and contribute to an increase in property values."

"The scale and character of the proposed 12 townhouses will blend in nicely with the existing urban fabric and architecture of the surrounding neighborhood," he wrote. "The addition of these 12 luxury high-end single-family townhouses will be a significant enhancement to an already vibrant and diverse urban neighborhood."

The new activity is occurring across the street from the ongoing redevelopment of the former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital site into a new residential and retail community, dubbed Lancaster Square.

TMMontante Development – run by Thomas Montante, brother of Uniland co-founder and Chairman Carl Montante Sr. – is leading that effort, alongside partner Morgan Communities of Rochester. Plans for the $110 million multiyear redevelopment call for more than 500 condominiums, townhouses and apartments, plus an urban grocery, a fitness center, additional ground-floor retail space and potentially office space.

Additionally, Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates already has completed and opened its new Canterbury Woods Gates Circle senior community on part of the former hospital property, with 53 independent living and five assisted-living units in a new six-story building along the circle. People Inc. is constructing its own three-story building on another former Millard Fillmore site at 637 Linwood Ave., with 37 senior apartments.

And developer Noel Sutton is separately converting a historic former home at 1296 Delaware into a 10-room boutique hotel.

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