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Council approves Queen City Landing project on Outer Harbor

Developer Gerry Buchheit said by the end of next year, his Queen City Landing will be rising 23 stories above Buffalo's Outer Harbor. Buffalo's Common Council approved the long-awaited project Tuesday.

The project would rise on one of the only privately owned sections of the waterfront, the old Freezer Queen property towering above the Small Boat Harbor. That building will be demolished, ground up and used as fill on the wet piece of property.

The property is in Councilmember Chris Scanlon's South District. He strongly backed the proposal. "This is no decision that I have come to very easily. For weeks now, I have deliberated on this," Scanlon said.

"I've asked questions. I've sought opinions, answers. And, most importantly I think I've listened, regardless of who it was. I listened. I valued all the input that has come my way. I've met with anyone and everyone who has asked to sit down with me," he said. 

The facility will include 199 apartments, two restaurants, a giant parking ramp, a fitness center and recreational facilities. North District Councilmember Joseph Golombek voted against the project, arguing it bypasses the planned Green Code.

"The Green Code would have addressed this issue. It would have limited it to a six-story limit. It would have allowed for the developer to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals in order to have it changed in the variance," Golombek said. "I honestly think this Council is making a mistake by not approving the Green Code sooner rather than later."

The Green Code has been tied up in Council back rooms for months, with reports of significant changes.

The actual vote approving Queen City Landing suggests serious internal problems. It was a six-to-three vote, a rare public disagreement among councilmembers.

Developer Buchheit says the building will improve the Waterfront. "We're hoping so and we're hoping that the ugly Buildings A and B go away," he said. " The boats that are parking there and everything in the decrepit conditions of those buildings, we want to see those go away as well. Hopefully, this is going to start something good and we're proud to say we're the ones who've done it."

The new complex will take up approximately eight acres of the site, leaving 12 for future development between the new tower and the buildings the developer was complaining about, Terminals A and B, which are now part of a new state park. Their future is unclear.

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.