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Developers seek demolition of buildings for Elmwood Crossing, Hertel projects

Two Elmwood Avenue restaurant buildings at nearly opposite ends of the city are facing demolition requests this week as part of a pair of unrelated redevelopment projects by William Paladino, Nick Sinatra and Uniland Development Co.

Paladino's Ellicott Development Co. and Sinatra & Co. Real Estate are seeking permission from the Buffalo Preservation Board to tear down part of the former Midtown Kitchen or MTK restaurant building in order to clear the way for construction of a five-story mixed-use project at the northeast corner of Elmwood and Bryant Street. The 0.42-acre corner property is currently a parking lot that is next door to the restaurant, which will be incorporated into the project.

In turn, that new building will mark the first phase of the developers' conversion of the former Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo complex into a new mixed-use community in the Elmwood Village.

According to a letter from Ellicott Director of Development Thomas Fox to the Preservation Board, the developers want to demolish an 800 square-foot addition that was constructed on the south side of the building at 451 Elmwood in 2015. The $10,000 demolition is subject to review because the one-story, flat-roof brick building – which in turn is attached to a two-story commercial building at 459 Elmwood – is part of the Elmwood Historic District (East).

Ellicott and Sinatra are planning a $100 million reuse of the eight-acre former hospital site, which moved to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus after nearly a century in the Elmwood Village.  Sinatra and Ellicott bought the property after the move, and have been working on their plans for the new Elmwood Crossing ever since.

Overall, they are proposing about 220 apartments, 27 for-sale condominiums, 20 town houses, an urban grocery, boutique shops, office space and an EduKids day care center. 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, with a playground.

Buffalo Planning Board approves first building at Elmwood Crossing

But most of the work hasn't begun yet, as the developers still have to go through a full municipal and environmental review process that is expected to take months, although some "site activity" may start by early next year, Fox said. In the meantime, the two firms hoped to at least get started on the first building quickly in order to demonstrate progress for the neighborhood and Kaleida.

The developers received approval in April to erect a 65,000-square-foot complex on the corner at 451 Elmwood and 219 Bryant, with at least four ground-floor retail spaces, one floor of office space and 22 apartments on the three upper floors. That's reduced from the original proposal for 36 apartments in an 80,500-square-foot building, after the developers agreed to cut the height by one floor and seven feet to try to appease neighborhood objections that the building was too tall. Two units were also consolidated into one on the fifth floor.

A portion of the new building will include affordable housing, although the amount hasn't been determined. That's in keeping with the developers' public pledge – now encapsulated in a memorandum of understanding with the city – that at least 20 percent of all rental units throughout the campus will be affordable for individuals and families earning 80 percent of the area's median income.

Construction on that first building is expected to begin later this month, with completion later next year, Fox said.

Elmwood Crossing project wins key zoning approvals

Meanwhile, to the north, the Montante family's Uniland is asking for approval to tear down the former Dickie's Donuts building at 1866 Elmwood and 770 Hertel Ave. That's part of the larger 766-800 Hertel site, where Uniland plans to build new mixed-use, office and retail facilities as it redevelops much of the Elmwood-Hertel intersection in North Buffalo.

Uniland, initially with Blue Cardinal Capital, acquired 20 acres of property at the northwest and southwest corners of the key intersection from the Deni family in October 2017 and June 2018, paying $7.12 million in all. The properties include vacant commercial and industrial land, warehouses, a single-family residential parcel, a collision shop, and other buildings, some of which have since been demolished.

The effort is focused around a mixed-use project anchored largely by retail tenants, but also including office, industrial and residential space. Plans are still in flux, but Uniland has said it is seeking a large retail tenant – such as a drugstore, grocery store or entertainment venue – to anchor the main intersection and drive the rest of the redevelopment around it. Blue Cardinal is no longer involved.

The former doughnut shop, which is now a bottle-return center, is a single-story concrete and red brick restaurant building with a gray mansard roof, constructed in 1950. The lease for the current tenant, Bucks 4 Bottles, ends on Oct. 31, and Uniland wants to start demolition shortly afterwards.

"The building has no historical significance," Uniland Project Manager Kyle R. Raczka wrote in a letter to Buffalo Senior Planner Christopher Hawley. "Eliminating the bottle return center from this very visible corner of North Buffalo should greatly reduce the amount of trash and debris that tends to collect around this property, its landscaping and parking lot. Future development will further beautify the neighborhood."

The requests will be reviewed by the Preservation Board at 3 p.m. Sept. 20.

Uniland goes solo for project at Elmwood-Hertel

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