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Legacy Development seeks May start of construction on St. Louis Place townhomes

Frank Chinnici hopes to start construction by May on seven for-sale townhouses in Allentown, but he needs condominium approval from the state before he can start marketing and selling them.

The owner of Buffalo-based Legacy Development plans to erect an L-shaped masonry building on a vacant 0.23-acre parcel of land at 8 St. Louis Place, just behind St. Louis Church and within walking distance of Metro Rail and bus routes, as well as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Plans call for the three-story attached townhouses to face an internal yard within the narrow lot, and each of the seven townhouses will have an attached one-car garage, with a shared driveway access from the street. All units would have rooftop terraces and green roofs, while the second floors would include balconies.

The $2.2 million project received six needed variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and was previously approved on Sept. 23 by the city Planning Board. But the Preservation Board later insisted on a few changes, so Chinnici sought and received renewed site plan approval from the planning board this week.

Designers at Wendel raised the placement of windows and the front door to match the foundation lines of nearby buildings, and introduced a front stoop to match the neighborhood character.

They also revised the brick facade, using a "soldier course" to create horizontal lines and breaking up the heavy brick parapet with glass balconies to soften the roofline. And they changed the vinyl cladding on the north and west sides to cement Hardie board, and broke up the color pattern in consultation with neighbors.

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"We’re looking to bring a project that is really valuable to the city, on a site that is challenging both in its dimensions and its scale," said Wendel's Daniel J. Leonard. "We’re not trying to be fake historic, but to pay respect to the patterns and designs around us."

Chinnici said crews now have to finish the brownfield cleanup at the site, before starting construction, expected by mid-May. Two units are reserved, while a third would be the model unit. The rest would be built based on sales, with a goal of finishing within 18 months.

"It’s a project that we think fits very well into the neighborhood," Leonard added.

The Planning Board recommended approval by the Common Council of special-use permit requests by:

  • Rita DiTondo, to reopen her family's DiTondo's Restaurant at 370 Seneca St., with occasional live music and outdoor dining.
  • Darcell Thomas, to open Larry'z Sports Lounge at 289 Austin St., in a former tavern space with capacity to seat up to 50 people.
  • NAS Sign Co., for a digital sign for Enterprise Charter School at 275 Oak St.
  • Bianca Colston, to open the Tropical Lounge at 2268 Genesee St., with a focus on breakfast while also serving lunch and dinner, and hosting parties. She also plans to eventually seek a liquor license.
  • Uzzal Ahmed, to open a Halal food store at 193 Leroy Ave., with groceries, meat, fish and vegetables, but no liquor or tobacco products. Ahmed will live in an apartment upstairs.
  • Camille Cunningham, to open a 72-seat restaurant and bar in a vacant building at 520 Broadway – but with a status review after one year.

"We’re trying to get everybody in support on the right page to get this establishment going," Cunningham said.

Cunningham's proposal had previously been tabled because of inconsistent and inadequate information about her plans, as well as concerns about security and hours. She provided clarity on several issues Monday, but neighbors still had concerns.

"There are mixed messages coming up," said Ruth Bryant, chair of the Willert Park Community Village Association. "We are not in favor of her opening the establishment."

Board members had concerns as well, and cut back the hours from a proposed 2 a.m. closure to midnight or 11 p.m. Security will be provided by one armed guard and an unarmed guard, who will also patrol the public parking.

"We don’t want to say no to a new business opening up in the city, but we also want to be supportive of a strong, vibrant community that has concerns because there are unknowns," said Board Vice Chair Cynthia Schwartz.

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