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Group buys Bullfeathers, other Elmwood buildings for four-story project

A small family-owned development group that agreed in March to buy five Elmwood Avenue buildings – including the former home of J.P. Bullfeathers restaurant – has now closed on that purchase, clearing the way for a four-story apartment project.

Whitesand Family LP, through Whitesand Elmwood LLC, paid $2 million to buy 1006-1028 Elmwood from Elmwood Bidwell Redevelopment Co.

That's an affiliate of Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., which had owned a cluster of properties in the Elmwood Village at Bidwell Parkway that were previously destined to be part of a controversial development project called Arbor + Reverie.

That project originally featured nearly 100 condominiums and apartments, eight retail storefronts and a three-level parking structure in two five-story buildings that were proposed in November 2016. The plan involved the demolition of 11 existing structures on 11 properties.

Instead, it drew criticism as inappropriate and out-of-scale with the Elmwood Village. Opponents mobilized to fight the project and Ciminelli ultimately withdrew both parts of the project after attempts to appease neighbors failed to win enough support.

Since then, Ciminelli sold three apartment houses on Potomac and Ashland avenues to investors from downstate and from Watertown, allowed a new restaurant to open in another building on Elmwood, and tried unsuccessfully to win city approval to turn the Bullfeathers property into a parking lot.

[Related: Ciminelli selling Elmwood buildings could mark end of Arbor + Reverie]

The Whitesand acquisition included 1006-1008, 1010, 1020, 1024 and 1028 Elmwood, with the restaurant, three storefronts and more than 10 apartments. The building at 1006-1008 Elmwood will be re-leased, with two retail stores and five apartments.

The developers, working with architect Michael Anderson of Abstract Architecture, will evaluate the condition of the Bullfeathers building at 1010 Elmwood after sitting vacant for more than three years, said Don White, one of primary partners in Whitesand. He said the current plan is to reopen a restaurant and neighborhood bar, while converting the upstairs offices into apartments.

But Whitesand plans to combine the three two-story doubles to the north – at 1020, 1024 and 1028 Elmwood – into a single parcel, demolish the three apartment houses on them, and replace them with a 42,000-square-foot residential and retail building.

The new building would feature three first-floor storefronts, totaling about 3,730 square feet, plus 24 spaces of covered parking, with 26 apartments on the upper three floors. The project – expected to cost $10 million, including the purchase price – would include a mix of two-bedroom and one-bedroom units.

Whitesand already received zoning variances for the length and height of the building. At 50 feet and four stories, it would exceed the maximum cap for the Elmwood Village of three stories and 44 feet. White said work should begin in the spring.

Whitesand is a family partnership consisting of White, Tom Sand and other relatives. The firm owns four multifamily rental properties in Buffalo, Amherst, Blasdell and North Carolina, with two more under development, and a total of 39 units prior to the Ciminelli purchase. In the Elmwood Village, the family owns 16 apartments and two studio units at 305 West Utica, plus eight new luxury apartments at 297 West Utica.

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