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Ciminelli hopes to win over neighbors with changes to waterfront project

Continued pressure from residents of the Waterfront Village brought the developer of a new condo project back to the negotiating table and drawing board, leading to a series of changes that are now up for review by the city.

Four months after receiving approval for its planned West End condominium project, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is returning to the city Planning Board on Dec. 3 with eight revisions to its proposal.

They range from slight shifts in the location of one unit - by 10.7 feet - to new concrete patios, mailboxes and condensing units. While they appear minor in the scope of the overall concept, several changes address lingering issues of major concern to residents of neighboring waterfront buildings, while others will help Ciminelli sell the condos.

Although the developer had clearance to proceed as of late July, "the project team continued to work with the residents of the Waterfront Village in an attempt to gain their support," wrote Ciminelli Senior Development Manager Amber Holycross, in a letter to the city's planning director, Nadine Marrero.

Ciminelli has also filed an application with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to include the property in its Brownfield Cleanup Program.

After four years of back-and forth negotiations and months of public battles, Ciminelli in July won the city's backing for its $20 million proposal to construct 20 new townhouses at 240-260 Lakefront Boulevard, between the road and the water. The firm plans  to build four structures on the L-shaped parcel - which has been vacant for decades but was always intended to be developed

One building, stretching toward the water, would have eight town houses, while the other three would have four units each. Each town house would be three stories or 38 feet, six inches in height, with an integrated two-car garage, as well as balconies and patios. Nineteen of them would be 3,300 square feet in size, while a single unit on the end of one of the buildings, closest to the water, would be larger, at 4,590 square feet.

Neighbors objected, protesting the height of the new buildings, the density of the project, the landscaping, and the setback from the buildings, the street and the water. They were particularly concerned about the loss of waterfront views, which they say contribute heavily to the value of their homes.

Neighbors object to new waterfront condos: 'Views count a lot'

Ciminelli revised its plans several times, most recently just before the Planning Board vote, and was able to meet nine of the neighbors' 10 demands. But it wouldn't budge enough for residents on the last point, related to the distance of the largest townhouse from the water.

That apparently changed. According to Holycross' letter and other documents filed with the city, Ciminelli shifted the westernmost townhouse southward to open up the views for residents of the Portside complex. That also increased the project's setback from the water from 115 feet to 120 feet.

The developer also replaced the turnaround at the end of the driveway with a "gentle curve" so that cars can still turn around but can't park in the "stub." And officials revised the landscaping plan so that all plantings will be no more than two feet tall.

Those first three changes came at the request of neighbors. Each townhouse also will now have a small concrete patio for grilling.

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