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$100M development with grocery planned for downtown parking lot

A downtown parking lot is being turned into a sizeable mixed-use complex that will include 200 housing units and a Tops market.

The City of Buffalo had a vast parking lot between the Central Library and the NFTA offices and bus station it wanted to use for a food store, so the City put out requests for proposal. Thursday night, the public learned the winning proposal will be a $100 million mixed-use complex by Ciminelli Real Estate.

Ciminelli Development and Planning Vice President Denise Juron-Borgese says starting from scratch allows new design.

"We've done those adaptive reuse projects as well, like Bethune Lofts and Sinclair, but being able to start from the beginning with brand new construction does afford us some unique opportunities, like the balconies that were shown in the presentation and the green roof gives us some interesting freedom to really to have some unique apartments and condos in the marketplace," he says.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

Ciminelli says this is just the first stage in a visioning process. Renderings were presented at a meeting in the library auditorium and Juron-Borgese says it will be months - perhaps two years - before the design is final.

The renderings were very detailed about public and private spaces and an 18-story building for offices, condos and apartments. The project would bring retail and restaurants and lots of open spaces and 800 covered parking spaces, most underground. There would also be a green roof for a park area that could be used for concerts and similar "gathering place" events.

One thing not included was a hotel, unusual for a local project.

Signature Development's Rocco Termini owns the Lafayette Hotel across the street. Termini says the proposal is good for his mixed-use complex.

"This is terrific because, don't forget, across the street is not only a hotel, but its 100 apartments, so we have 100 people always looking for somewhere to shop," he says. "We're finally getting shopping downtown. We're finally getting the catalyst for retail downtown. I think this is a great project."

Council President Darius Pridgen says he wants to be sure the project includes affordable housing.

"If we're going to sell land, I want to see portions of this project be affordable housing. That's important to me," says Pridgen. "Whether I win that fight, I don't know. I'm one vote out of nine. However, I think that it's important for a project of this scale to build into its project some affordable housing."

Pridgen has leverage on the project because the city would have to sell the land to Ciminelli to make way for the project. This would be the first major project completely within the rules of the newly revised Green Code.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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