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Three Elmwood Village projects seek Planning Board approval

The second effort by a developer in recent years to construct a four-story apartment and retail building near Elmwood and Potomac avenues in Buffalo is poised for city review – one of three new Elmwood Village projects that the Buffalo Planning Board will consider Monday, following public hearings.

Whitesand Family LP – a family partnership led by Don White and his stepson, Tom Sand – is proposing to construct a four-story building at 1020-1028 Elmwood, after demolishing three multifamily homes with 11 units and one commercial space that currently occupy the three parcels.

The 38,260-square-foot building would include 26 market-rate apartments on the second through fourth floors, with three ground-floor commercial spaces totaling 3,275 square feet. The apartments would consist of seven one-bedroom units and 19 two-bedroom units, according to plans by Abstract Architecture.

The $6.2 million project would include 23 parking spaces on the 0.33-acre property, to be located behind the commercial spaces and underneath part of the building's residential section. Another six spaces will be provided on the adjacent J.P. Bullfeathers property at 1010 Elmwood, which Whitesand also owns.

The building will have residential entrances from both Elmwood and Ashland avenues. Its facade features a combination of brick veneer, terra cotta cladding, a fiber cement rainscreen, bent metal flashing and painted metal balconies. The site is adjacent to the Elmwood Historic District West.

The Zoning Board of Appeals has granted two variances for the building's height – which exceeds the Green Code's limit of three stories for the Elmwood Village – and for combining more than two properties for new construction. As a condition of that approval, the fourth floor will be stepped back from the front façade to reduce the visual impact from the street.

If the Planning Board approves, construction would take about a year.

Whitesand purchased the three properties, plus two others, from Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. in September, paying $2 million. Ciminelli sold them after its own ambitious plan for two five-story mixed-use buildings – dubbed Arbor + Reverie and located on a dozen properties along Elmwood – met such significant community resistance that it had to shelve the project, even after it dropped one of the buildings and reduced the size of the second.

Whitesand plans to re-lease the two retail stores and five apartments at 1006-1008 Elmwood, while seeking a new restaurant for the former Bullfeathers building.

Separately, the developers behind the effort to turn the former Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo campus into Elmwood Crossing are bringing their second project to the Planning Board for approval. Sinatra & Co. Real Estate and Ellicott Development Co. plan to convert the former Hodge Pediatrics building into an EduKids day care on the first floor and a single market-rate apartment on the second floor.

Located on 0.63 acres at 125 Hodge, on the north side of the street east of Elmwood, the vacant two-story building would be renovated, while a one-story 5,440-square-foot addition would be constructed. Crews would reclad the existing 6,630-square-foot building in a light-colored clapboard cement siding, with larger windows along Hodge.

Upon completion of the $1.6 million project, expected by August 2020, the new building would total 12,070 square feet of space, with a new driveway, bus drop-off and 10-space parking area shaped like a lounge chair.

The day care project is part of the larger $100 million redevelopment of the eight-acre campus, which will include more than 220 apartments, 27 condominiums, 22 townhouses, a 75-room hotel, an urban grocery, boutique shops and office space. Work on the first $16 million phase – a five-story building with 23 apartments, one floor of office space and first-floor retail shops – is underway at the corner of Elmwood and Bryant Street.

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Finally, architect-turned-developer Jake Schneider wants to convert the former Community Music School building at 415 Elmwood into the Musical Suites, with 22 one-bedroom apartments – ranging from 700 to 900 square feet – and a small ground-floor commercial office space geared for professional office use.

Plans for the $5 million adaptive reuse project call for renovating the three-story school building into 12 units and the 1,500-square-foot office, while constructing a sister building on the quarter-acre surface parking lot to the south at 409 Elmwood.

That second structure – designed to look consistent with the original and the neighborhood – would preserve and cover 19 parking spaces, with 10 apartments on the upper two floors.

The two structures would be linked by a glass walkway in the middle, and would comply with historic guidelines, according to a letter from Thomas R. Kujawa of Schneider Architectural Services. The site is considered a contributing structure to the National Elmwood Historic District East, so the planned work will be reviewed by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the National Park Service.

The 29,830-square-foot project, located on 0.36 acres south of Elmwood Crossing, received variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals last month. If approved by the Planning Board, the project would start in March 2020, with completion expected by early 2021.

The project actually brings the property full circle. Community Music School had occupied the Colonial Revival-style building for nearly 60 years before moving to a new location and selling the building in August, but the structure was previously an apartment building after it was erected in 1910. The interior woodwork and other architectural details from the original apartments still remain, and will be restored and incorporated into the new building, along with musical motifs that pay tribute to its recent past, Kujawa said.

The Planning Board also will consider requests for special-use permits for:

  • Akther Hussin to operate a neighborhood retail shop called Walden Variety Store on the first floor of a vacant former two-family house at 29 Walden Ave., near Martin Luther King Jr. Park, with two apartments upstairs.
  • Safar Uddin to convert the first floor of a vacant two-story mixed use building at 1015 Fillmore Ave. from a church back to a retail space, where he will relocate his Al-Madina Variety Store from rented space on the other side of the street. The second floor would have two apartments.

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