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Arbor Demolition Request Withdrawn By Ciminelli

by Jim Fink

Buffalo Business First

Thu, Jan 26th 2017 08:20 am

Ciminelli officials confirmed it will not — for now — seek the demolition of a series of buildings between Potomac Avenue and Bidwell Parkway that comprise the Arbor portion of the $40 million mixed-use project. The demolition request has sparked a passionate debate among Elmwood Village businesses and residents, who contend the project will alter the ambiance of the neighborhood.

During a nearly two-hour long Jan. 12 preservation board meeting, the development was roundly criticized by Elmwood Avenue interests. The project has become a polarizing issue pitting Elmwood Avenue interests against Ciminelli.

Supporters say the buildings bring a Georgetown and Saratoga-like feel to Elmwood Avenue while critics call the designs too intrusive.

"We listened to the community, especially with Arbor, and that's why we are withdrawing the (demolition) request," said Paul Ciminelli, Ciminelli Real Estate chairman.

Arbor, a four-story, mixed-use building, is set for between Potomac Avenue and Bidwell Parkway.

The decision came before the preservation board on Thursday afternoon may consider a landmark designation for a series of Elmwood Avenue and Potomac Avenue buildings that are part of the Arbor + Reverie footprint.

A separate public hearing on Ciminelli's demolition request is set for Feb. 2, beginning at 6 p.m., at Lafayette High School.

The preservation board can only make a recommendation on the demolition request. Any final decision rests with the Buffalo Common Council and the city's Permits and Inspection Services department.

The so-called Arbor + Reverie project is the first development to be totally governed by the city's new Green Code, which formally takes effect on Feb. 17.

Ciminelli said the intent all along was to phase the Arbor + Reverie buildings. Reverie is largely set for the now-closed Bullfeather's site as well as other buildings between the bar and Potomac Avenue.

The developer is still seeking Buffalo approval to demolish those buildings and replace it with a four-story structure anchored by 55 apartments, 123 indoor parking spaces and 5,000-square-feet of first floor retail.

Ciminelli is taking one of its first Reverie steps by asking the Buffalo Planning Board to begin a mandated environmental review of the project. The planning board will consider the request on Jan. 30.

Besides planning board approval, Ciminelli will need a pair of variances from Buffalo Zoning Board of Approvals because of its setback from Elmwood Avenue and four-story, 53-foot high design, which is nine feet more than allowed under the Green Code.

Ciminelli said both Arbor + Reverie, which were designed by HHL Architects, were created with the Green Code in mind/

"Reverie is designed to contribute to all the things that people love about Elmwood," said Adam Walters, a Phillips Lytle partner and Ciminelli's attorney.

Ciminelli said by focusing, for now, on the Reverie building also gives his company to get a better feel for how the building will fit into the Elmwood atmosphere.

"It also gives us a better opportunity to test the market," Ciminelli said. "The reality is, we were always going to do this in phases, beginning with Reverie. By doing Reverie first, people will get a chance to see how the two buildings can help, not hurt Elmwood."

Walters acknowledged the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bidwell Parkway carries a lot of emotion among nearby residents and businesses.

"It's an iconic corner, everyone agrees with that," Walters said. "The Elmwood residents and businesses always have, and always, will put a lot of care into designs of any new building."