The burst of new suburban apartment development is continuing, with developer Frank Chinnici planning to add another 340 units in the Town of Cheektowaga.
Chinnici's Legacy Development is proposing to construct a pair of large new apartment buildings on a 6.1-acre site at 100 McKesson Parkway. That's off Union Road, behind Anderson's Frozen Custard and Party City, but also behind the eastern edge of the Walden Galleria.
Plans for the $100 million project by C&S Engineers call for two five-story buildings, with a larger rectangular block building with 205 apartments and an interior courtyard and a smaller U-shaped building with 135 units. There's also 340 onsite parking spaces - as well as the use of up to 374 additional existing off-site parking spaces at the nearby Galleria.
Indeed, it's that proximity to the mall - and the existence of all the surrounding retail and infrastructure - that attracted Chinnici, who also cited the opportunity to create workforce housing for all the retailers without having to worry about investing in roads, utilities and other extra expenses.
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"There’s a reason why the Walden Galleria mall is located where it is. It’s the most central location in all of Erie County and has access to the Thruway. So just that virtue alone makes this an attractive site," he said. "From a convenience standpoint, and all the amenities, it’s ideal. It’s beneficial both to the mall and to us. So it’s a complementary relationship."
The site – which consists of two adjacent parcels – is currently vacant and owned by Syracuse-based mall owner Pyramid Management - through McKessen RI LLC - but is under contract for purchase. Chinnici has asked the town to rezone the property from retail business district to residential apartment to allow the multi-family development, which will cover 4.88 acres of greenspace.
In seeking the rezoning, the firm and its attorney, Sean Hopkins, note that the town's comprehensive plan describes development as "an ever-changing landscape that fluctuates with the nature of supply and demand, adjusting to the needs of the consumer."
And it said that's what's happening now in the "Galleria-Thruway district," which has been known as a shopping, retail and dining destination but has faced challenges because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the decline of bricks-and-mortar retail.
According to the application by Legacy, the comprehensive plans says that area of town must "undergo a deeper analysis and assessment for what types of use are appropriate and feasible while still maintaining its commercial importance within the region." And that makes "greater design and redevelopment flexibility" critical, the development team wrote, saying the proposed project will benefit the nearby retailers.
The firm is also seeking area variances, and will also need Erie County Water Authority, Erie County Highway Department and state Department of Environmental Conservation permits. Separate approval may also be necessary because of the proximity to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the firm noted in its application to the town.
"We’ve had what we view as a fairly welcoming response from the municipality," Chinnici said. "We’re not getting any pushback."
If approved, the infill project would be completed in two phases over 36 to 48 months, beginning with the first phase for the smaller building in April 2023, and culminating by April 2026.