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Two major development projects get Planning Board go-ahead

The Exchange Street facade planned for Seneca One

Two major Buffalo development projects received significant approvals Monday before the city Planning Board.

The public now gets a chance to look at what is planned for the former Women & Children's Hospital site—the Elmwood Crosssing project by Ellicott Development.

The Planning Board approved the draft environmental impact statement, ordered a public hearing and started the public comment period. That is to conclude July 29, but could be extended. Final approval is not likely until some time in October.

This project is separate from the planned building at Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street, which is farther along in the process. Lawyer Marc Romanowski said work has continued on environmental cleanup in the old hospital complex, like asbestors abatement.

"We would like to begin construction as soon as we can, but we understand we have to get through this process first," Romanowski said. "The public comment period we expect will be substantial, so all of that needs to be digested by planning staff and the Planning Board. So they're going to need some time to do that."

The board also approved yet another change in plans for the towering Seneca One project. This would remove vast blank walls along Washington and Exchange streets to be replaced by facade improvements for potential commercial or office space and another building directly above on the tower plaza.

Lawyer Jon Pierowicz said it is part of constant changes, as developer Douglas Jemal tinkers with his plans for the building lower levels.

"It's an incredibly attractive space for any prospective tenant. At the same time, it's going to improve the streetscape immensely," Pierowicz said. "I don't know if you walk down to that area of Washington and Exchange. Right now, it's a bit foreboding, to say the least. So this is going to create transparency. It's going to create life at street level, which is exactly what we want for one of the most important parcels of the city."

There are no commercial and residential tenants yet on the lower floors of the complex. The filed plan calls for residential tenants in the fall. Much of what is being built and added to now is expected to be finished by February of next year.

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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