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Editorial: Zemskys have ambitious new plan for Larkinville

If ever a project cried out for approval, it is the expansion plans at Larkinville. A once downtrodden tract with a rich historical past, the city neighborhood is coming back strong. It’s time to build on that change.

In fact, there really had not been a Larkinville in the sense that people now know it, in quite a long time: Larkin Square, cafes, convenience stores, diners, restaurants and lofts. It’s the place to be to hear authors speak, enjoy KeyBank Live at Larkin and Food Truck Tuesday during the summer.

Now the Zemsky family and its partners are planning more than $19 million in new development projects – featuring the first Paula’s Donuts in the Buffalo core – opening sometime next year. Munch on that one.

The wide-ranging effort to meet Larkin District’s potential, as Leslie Zemsky described in a recent article, involves the city Planning Board which has already begun an initial environmental review of the combined effort. It also requires Planning Board, Zoning Board and Common Council approval, in addition to a change in zoning for property at 799 Seneca St.

Larkin Development Group is proposing three new buildings on Seneca Street. The broad vision will surely further invigorate what has already become an attraction for baby boomers and millennials.

The three new buildings will all have first-floor retail and apartments above with more than 76 units in total, at 872 Seneca, 864 Seneca and 799 Seneca. The latter will include five retail stores, 50,000 square feet of office space and 70 apartments and will cost about $17 million. The smaller projects are expected to cost another $2 million for the two smaller structures.

Leslie Zemsky talked about the “longstanding vision” she and her husband, Howard, have had for the historic neighborhood they began developing years ago.

So much has happened in the city over the past decade, it might be hard to remember what Larkinville was like before the Zemskys. They teamed with Joseph Petrella and others to purchase a 600,000-square-foot warehouse and convert it into the Larkin at Exchange office building.

It was a calculated risk that included a heavy dose of belief in this town and what it could be, once again. It worked.

The office building is now fully occupied, led by KeyBank. Larkinville has evolved into a place where people work, live and play. And, fortunately for Buffalo, the Zemskys aren’t finished with it.

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