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Editorial: Ciminelli Real Estate has earned discount on land for waterfront homes

When a business asks for a deal from the government, there is often reason to be suspicious. But here is one that seems warranted: Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.’s request for a discount on the land where it will build its West End town house project on the Buffalo waterfront.

The reason? The developer has gone to great lengths to modify plans based on objections from neighbors, in the process substantially reducing the size – and moneymaking potential – of the project.

Ciminelli Real Estate originally agreed to pay $2.2 million for an L-shaped parcel of city-owned land on the Buffalo River waterfront near Canalside. Now it has asked that the price for the 2.4 acres be reduced to $1.3 million.

The developer has offered a sweetener: A profit-sharing arrangement giving the city one-third of all net revenues above $18.3 million generated from the sale of the 20 town houses in the new plan. Getting the math to work in the city’s favor would necessitate each town house selling for a little over $1 million.

The project started as a combination of 31 town houses and condominiums. It now is 100,000 square feet smaller, doesn’t include a four-story condominium building and has only the 20 town houses.

Even the Planning Board vice chairwoman stated last month that, “The applicant has made an extraordinary effort to work with the residents and address virtually all of their concerns.” Vice Chairwoman Cynthia Schwartz added, “I frankly struggle, given how much has gone into modifying the plan, on asking the applicant to do any more.”

The Buffalo Common Council, at the recommendation of the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, is considering a request to approve the sale. The property, at 240-260 Lakefront Blvd., is held by BURA, which has had the responsibility over the decades of overseeing the development of Waterfront Village.

A public hearing will be scheduled before a vote on the sale. If the Common Council approves the sale, the contract would go to the BURA board, led by Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, for final approval.

Neighbors have been successful in delaying the project, as the developer worked to address a series of 10 objections from the Waterfront Village Advisory Council. Residents living in the area have been concerned that the new buildings would obstruct their waterfront views and devalue their units. The setback issue has been a special concern to the Portside and Marina Park developments on either side, according to one Portside resident who complained about the possibility of losing “significant viewshed” that would reduce their market value and tax value to the city.

We understand and we sympathize. Anyone who has lived next to an undeveloped piece of land has undoubtedly hoped it would never be developed. Most of the time, that isn’t realistic. Common Council members cannot ignore opposition to the project, but they can also not ignore the efforts made by the developer and the Planning Board’s unanimous approval.

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